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Gilmore said the decision on a vatican embassy was not influenced objections to its closure. Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

New Vatican embassy is about new policies, not new Pope - Gilmore

The new scaled-back presence in the Holy See is about Pope Francis’ view on worldwide poverty and hunger according to the Tánaiste.

EAMON GILMORE HAS SAID said that the decision to reopen an embassy in the Vatican was not about the election of the new Pope, more about the issues he is pursuing.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs told reporters that the new scaled-back presence in the Holy See was decided upon in large part due to how forceful Pope Francis has been in his statements on tackling worldwide poverty and hunger.

“It is about the policy as opposed to the person, ” Gilmore explained.

I have been struck by very strong statements made by Pope Francis about how tackling hunger and world poverty is a priority for him. It is something I feel very strongly about and it is very much part of Irish foreign policy. It is something that we can work with the Vatican on and that is why I suggested to the Government that we open a one person mission at the Vatican.

The representation in the Vatican will consist of just one person who will hold a position at “ambassador level” and will operate out of a “modest office as close to the Vatican as possible”, according to Gilmore.

The announcement to reopen the embassy was made today, over two years after the previous mission was closed, and came as the Government also outlined plans to bring Irish embassies to a number of other capital cities.

The Government has said that the new missions will not lead to any additional cost for the taxpayer but will be paid for from within the existing foreign affairs budget.

When it was announced in November 2011 that the Vatican embassy was to close, cost saving was put forward as the motivation.

‘I have honoured that’

The closure of the Vatican embassy was criticised by a number of Catholic groups but Gilmore has insisted this had no bearing on the decision to reopen it.

“The answer I gave to everyone is that I would reconsider. When we were looking at missions, I would look at the issue of the Vatican. I have honoured that. There was no pressure on me from either within Government or outside Government,” he said.

The Tánaiste said that the new Vatican mission is part of a wider plan to “promote trade and economic diplomacy”.

“It is also about the promotion of Irish values. As a country we have been leading on the whole agenda of tackling hunger and world poverty. This is top of the agenda now at the United Nations,” he said.

The current secretary general of the Department of Foreign Affairs David Cooney has been assigned to Vatican in lieu of of a permanent ambassador. Cooney is retiring in April and and his successor is expect to be announced shortly.

Read: Government “is satisfied” without Vatican embassy >

Read: Government to reopen Vatican embassy, 26 months after closing it >

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