BY ED WEST
THE IRISH foreign minister said that the government wo welcome a state visit fr Pope Benedict XVI in apparent U-turn.
Appearing before the I foreign affairs committee week, foreign minister Eam Gilmore said that Irelan leaders would welcome a visit from the Pope, reversing recent statements that they had no interest in such a visit.
Addressing the committee on the closure of embassies in the Vatican, East Timor and Iran, Mr Gilmore, who also holds the position of Tánaist or deputy prime minister, s that a papal visit would “ responded to positively the government”, accordi to RTÉ.
Committee chairman P Breen welcomed the remar saying that with next yea Eucharistic Congress to be h in Dublin it would be an ideal opportunity for such a visit.
Mr Gilmore said that the decision to close the Irish embassy to the Holy See was the result of financial problems but that it was taken with reluctance. In the committee Fianna Fáil TD Seán Ó Fearghail said the decision was a mistake which had hurt many people.
Back in early November Mr Gilmore said that the Pope had not been invited to Ireland and that an invitation was not under “active consideration”.
His apparent turnaround came at the end of one of the worst years in relations between the Holy See and the Irish government. The low point came in July when Mr Kenny said the Vatican was characterised by “dysfunction, disconnection, elitism and narcissism" during a speech in the Dáil.