Ireland’s Taoiseach, religion should not be society’s centre

Ireland’s Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar says religion should not be at the centre of society.

Speaking on the weekend as Pope Francis made his first visit to Ireland, Varadkar noted since the last papal visit in 1979, Ireland has become more diverse.

It is less religious and has modernised its laws on divorce, contraception, abortion and same sex marriage, he said.

At the same time, Ireland has come to the “understanding that marriages do not always work, that women should make their own decisions, and that families come in many different, wonderful forms, including those headed by a grandparent, lone parent or same-sex parents, or parents who are divorced,”.

Varadkar said many “devout Catholics … feel excluded … because of the treatment of women and the rules around how women can participate in the church, because they are from an LGBT background or because they are divorced, for example.

“I know that really hurts for them because there is a conflict between who they are and the rules of the faith which they follow and certainly, if I have the opportunity to speak to Pope Francis, I will want to relay that message.”

A new relationship between church and state involving a new covenant for the 21st century that reflects the modern country Ireland has become is necessary “in a fashion that respects [its] freedom of religion,” he suggested.

“It is not the role of the head of Government to ask any church or any religious group, Catholic, Christian or non-Christian, to change its faith.”

Learning from “our shared mistakes” would be integral to this new relationship.

Focusing on the “dark aspects” of Ireland’s history, Varadkar said: “The failures of both church and state, and wider society, created a bitter and broken heritage for so many, leaving a legacy of pain and suffering.”

These failures included child sexual abuse, the Magdalene Laundries, mother and baby homes and illegal adoptions were “stains on our state, our society and also the Catholic church.

“People kept in dark corners behind closed doors, cries for help that went unheard,” he said.

There is “much to be done to bring about justice and truth and healing for victims and survivors … We must now ensure that from words flow actions.”



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