Vatican recalls ambassador after Irish PM's attack on Church

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The Independent Online

The Vatican yesterday recalled its ambassador in Dublin after last week's criticism by Taoiseach Enda Kenny of the Catholic Church's handling of the clerical paedophilia scandal. Diplomatic ties between Ireland and the Vatican took a turn for the worse with publication earlier this month of the Cloyne Report, which condemned as "inadequate and inappropriate" the Vatican's handling of abuse claims against 19 clerics in Cloyne, southern Ireland, between 1996 and 2009. In particular, it accused the Vatican of dissuading priests from reporting suspected abuse cases to the police.

In a statement yesterday, the Vatican said: "Apostolic Nuncio Giuseppe Leanza has been recalled for consultations" after the publication of the judicial report, "and in particular due to the reactions to it".

The "reactions" that prompted the ambassador's withdrawal are thought to be those of the Irish premier, who last week made a lacerating – and unprecedented – attack on the Holy See.

Mr Kenny told the lower house of parliament in predominantly Catholic Ireland that the Church's inability to deal with the abuse cases showed a culture of "dysfunction, disconnection, elitism and narcissism" at the Vatican. He said the Church's behaviour had been "absolutely disgraceful".

Noting that Ireland was a secular society, he said: "For the first time in Ireland, a report into child sexual abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago."

Deputy head of the Vatican press office, Father Ciro Benedettini, said the recall denoted "the seriousness of the situation and the Holy See's desire to face it objectively and determinately". He added: "Nor does it exclude some degree of surprise and disappointment at certain excessive reactions."

Two weeks ago the Irish Foreign Minister, Eamon Gilmore, summoned Archbishop Leanza to demand an official response to claims in the Cloyne report that the Vatican had sabotaged efforts to bring clerical abuse out into the open.

It found that the Vatican had encouraged bishops to adopt canon law and ignore child-protection guidelines adopted by Irish bishops in 1996 that included "mandatory reporting" of abuse to the police.

The Vatican said it would respond to the charges at the "opportune time", but it has not yet chosen to do so.