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Ireland is to reopen Vatican embassy two years after shut down

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Plans to reopen the Irish embassy to the Holy See have been on the table for months and have now been given the green light.

The November 2011 decision to close the embassy was largely seen as a snub to the Catholic Church in the wake of a series of damning reports into the church's mishandling of clerical abuse.

The ever increasing popularity of Pope Francis is thought to have triggered the sudden change of mind. The Holy See in Rome is one of five new embassies to be set up. The other new embassies will be in Bangkok (Thailand), Jakarta (Indonesia), Zagreb (Croatia) and Nairobi (Kenya).

The renewed presence in the Vatican has been described by Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs as "scaled-back." The office will be a one-person embassy focused on international development.

"This will enable Ireland to engage directly with the leadership of Pope Francis on the issues of poverty eradication, hunger and human rights," the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

The ever increasing popularity of Pope Francis is also thought to be an influential part of the sudden change in mind.

Eamon Gilmore, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in Ireland, said the overall expansion is an investment in Ireland's future.

"Over the past five years our diplomats have been tasked with the frontline role in restoring Ireland's once-tattered reputation abroad, and in championing our economic cause," he said.

"And they have been hugely successful in doing that – both in European capitals, influencing key decisions at European Council level, and in major cities, organisations and political capitals around the world.

"This expansion of the embassy network will help to bolster that effort, and, crucially, to drive Ireland's economic recovery which has been export-led. It will equip Ireland to take advantage of emerging opportunities and will provide certainty for business that resources will be in place to support them in key markets and regions."

The Irish Times reports that within diplomatic circles, it has long been suggested that the Holy See is a very efficient “listening post” given the Catholic Church’s unparalleled, worldwide intelligence of priests and nuns.

Cardinal Sean Brady, the Primate of All Ireland, said diplomatic relations between Ireland and the Vatican remained productive even when the embassy was closed.

"Based on our shared commitment to justice, peace, eradication of poverty, international development, and the protection of the environment, I now look forward to ongoing and fruitful co-operation between Ireland and the Holy See for the common good," he said.

Archbishop Charles Brown, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, said: "It is an excellent decision for the people of Ireland and will be beneficial to Ireland in making its distinctive and important contribution to international relations. We are all grateful to those who worked so hard to make this day possible."

Meanwhile, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said reopening the Holy See Embassy on a smaller scale was a very constructive exercise and would enhance relations with the Vatican.

It is hoped  the new Ambassador will be installed by this summer. Since the embassy's closure, the role of Ambassador has been covered on a caretaker basis by the secretary general of Foreign Affairs, David Cooney.

Officials also stressed that there would be no possibility of the embassy being housed at its old site of the State-owned Villa Spada which, has since become the Irish Embassy to Italy.

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