Catholic Ireland’s stunning decision to close its embassy to the Vatican is a huge blow to the Holy See’s prestige and may be followed by other countries which feel the missions are too expensive, diplomatic sources said on Friday.
The closure brought relations between Ireland and the Vatican, once ironclad allies, to an all-time low following the row earlier this year over the Irish Church’s handling of sex abuse cases and accusations that the Vatican had encouraged secrecy.
Ireland will now be the only major country of ancient Catholic tradition without an embassy to the Vatican.
“This is really bad for the Vatican because Ireland is the first big Catholic country to do this and because of what Catholicism means in Irish history,” said a Vatican diplomatic source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
He said Ireland informed the Vatican shortly before the announcement was made on Thursday night.
Dublin’s foreign ministry said the embassy was being closed because “it yields no economic return” and that relations would be continued with an ambassador in Dublin.
The source said the Vatican was “extremely irritated” by the wording equating diplomatic missions with economic return, particularly as the Vatican sees its diplomatic role as promoting human values.
Diplomats said the Irish move might sway others to follow suit to save money because double diplomatic presences in Rome are expensive.
It was the latest crack in relations that had been seen as rock solid until a few years ago. [more]