AH, it’s nice to see that Enda, Fine Gael and the Pope are once again the best of chums, all matey-like and palsy-walsy. And, we suspect, a plenary indulgence might well have done the trick!
Because it wasn’t too long ago that Dame Enda was lacerating the Vatican for being ‘dysfunctional, disconnected, elitist and narcissistic’ – an extraordinary attack from a prominent Irish Catholic Taoiseach but which, at the time, reflected his government’s enthusiastic promotion of trendy liberalism.
And who can ever forget Enda’s awful play-acting at being a bit of a ‘rebel’ when, like a bored teenager, he churlishly fiddled with his iPhone during a papal audience?
Then there was the closure of the Irish Embassy to the Vatican. The action was intended to be the paramount confirmation of just how ‘with it’ Ireland had become under a super-progressive, ‘liberal’ Blueshirt-Cloth Cap government.
The fashionable reformist vote, it was suggested, would definitely favour Fine Gael and send the party romping back to power in the ensuing election; a strategy that we now know as a heap of cobblers.
So, having realised that ultra-populism didn’t cut much ice with the electorate, it was back to basics for Fine Gael, and time for Inda to make his peace with the Vatican. Which he did!
Insiders, however, are of the opinion that before peace could break out Inda had to let old grievances go and bring Fine Gael-Vatican hostilities to an end. And what better way to do that than to seek a plenary indulgence, which, needless to say, was granted.
Indeed, it also has been rumoured that, not only did the Pope assist in the said remission of all temporal punishment but also involved were a choir of angels and a congregation of saints. Even Thomas More, the patron saint of failed politicos, who lost his head for foolishly telling the truth, allegedly did his bit.
Once Enda was forgiven, the benefits contained within the plenary indulgence quickly became apparent. In the event of a sudden demise, Enda would fly straight to heaven, first class.
Happily he didn’t have to take up the option and, after making-up with the Vatican, he enjoyed a rather jolly encounter with the current Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis.
Better still, no sooner was Kenny out the gap than Church officials confirmed that the Pope would visit Ireland as part of the World Meeting of the Family, due to take place in Dublin in August 2018.
Not unexpectedly, political commentators began speculating that Kenny would cash in on the ‘Pope Effect’ and call a general election in 2018 (if he lasts that long in government). Already, Paddy Power is offering odds of 10/3. Others suggest that he’ll retire definitively after the Papal visit.
The Pope’s visit will be the icing on the cake for Enda and Fine Gael and, even more kudos will come their way should a papal peregrination in the Six Counties take place. The Vatican is keeping mum on the matter, but the North’s Martin McGuinness is convinced Il Papa has packed his bags.
McGuinness said there was ‘no prospect’ of the Pope not crossing the border. Sadly, not everybody down south was happy. Shane Ross, our vocal Sports Minister, advised that the Pope shouldn’t come to Ireland in the middle of a ‘controversial political matter in which he might get embroiled.’ Ross was referring to the abortion referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment.
No Pope here
That aside, the reaction in the Six Counties has been positive – well, assuming anything in the wretched place can be positive. Arlene Foster, the DUP first Minister, declared that she would meet Pope Francis, but only in his capacity as the head of state of Vatican City.
Let’s hope the ‘head of state’ requirement does not become an obstacle – because the point of the Pope’s trip to Ireland is not a state visit. It is pastoral in nature, primarily a visit to the local Church, as well as being a visit that is ecumenical in character. There is even talk of an open-air public Mass in the grounds of Stormont!
Rev Trevor Gribbens, general secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, said he would receive the Pope with open arms. ‘I would hope that all other people on this island will want to join with our fellow citizens in welcoming the leader of their Church to Ireland.’
He hoped that ‘all in our community would take the opportunity to show due respect to such a visit.’
But not too happy is evangelical Protestant and DUP councillor, John Finlay. In an article in the News Letter (December 2nd, 2016), he says: ‘I will not be welcoming a papal visit, and I know I am not alone. Despite all the pandering to the Pope by senior figures in the main Protestant denominations, the fact remains that many within the Presbyterian, Church of Ireland and Methodist churches are totally opposed to the Pope’s claims and teachings, and to any visit.
‘It is all very well to assert, as some people have done, that the Pope’s visit should be welcomed on grounds of civil and religious liberties. I can understand that the Roman Catholic people would want to see their leader, but the reality is that no papal visit can be low-key or merely pastoral, for the Pope claims temporal and spiritual power over the whole earth.’
The whole earth, mind you!
The councillor continues: ‘He claims to be Vicar of Christ on earth, but the Reformers and Puritans correctly identified him as an enemy of Christ and of the Gospel. It is worth reminding ourselves of the solemn words of the Westminster Confession of Faith where it states as Chapter 25 para 6: ‘There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ.
‘Nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalts himself, in the Church, against Christ and all that is called God.’
‘These words will be dismissed by some as the bigoted ramblings of a past age, but our Protestant forefathers had a better understanding of these matters than today’s largely secular and spiritually confused society.
‘I stand where they stood. It is imperative that all evangelical Protestants in church and state speak out clearly against the planned 2018 visit. The voice of opposition must be heard.’
Some things, it seems, never change, at least in the Six Counties! Perhaps if the evangelical Protestant, Cllr Finlay, was offered a plenary indulgence, as in the (supposed) case of our Taoiseach, he might change his tune, or at least sing from a sweeter hymn sheet?
In the meantime, the former Vatican scourge, Enda Kenny, deserves a papal knighthood!