Archbishop witnessed dark and light sides of the Vatican

Dublin archbishop Dr Diarmuid Martin witnessed both dedication to the service of the Church and its darker and sadder side when he worked at the Vatican.

Speaking at St Patrick’s College in Maynooth (which is Ireland’s national seminary), Martin said working at the Vatican is an unusual experience.

While in a leadership position in the then Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in 1987, Martin said on the one hand he met “some of the most intelligent, committed and enlightened men and women dedicated to the service of the Church” and was inspired by those who stood up for human rights.

However, he also witnessed “careerism and nastiness” while at the Holy See.

Most of his colleagues at the Justice and Peace council were “highly qualified laypersons and the Council could draw on expertise from Church experts, lay and clerical, around the world”.

Martin said the Council for Justice and Peace’s “real role” was to support what was being done at local level.

“This meant not simply being a desk-bound Vatican bureaucrat but going out to see and understand on the ground the challenges of the local churches and the experience and suffering of those local churches,” he said.

Just the same, he said this didn’t mean they acted like tourists, taking inessential trips and staying in hotels.

Rather, it involved staying with the local church, in difficult times and even in wartime circumstances.

It didn’t include extending trips beyond the specific mission in hand either.

The outspoken prelate has criticised the Church and the Vatican on a number of occasions in the past.

As an example, days before the Papal visit to Ireland last year he criticised the Vatican’s child protection office, saying Pope Francis “needs a better team around him”.


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