“if you want to show some proper respect and courtesy to the Holy See…”

In the Irish Times Paddy Agnew has an interesting, and prompt, response to last night’s announcement of the Irish Government’s decision to close the Irish Embassy to the Vatican.  From the Irish Times article

In practice, there are two types of Holy See ambassadors – those who have their own embassies in Rome and those who work out of the embassy in a neighbouring country such as France, Switzerland or Malta.

Senior Vatican diplomats point out that as far as the Holy See is concerned, the former are Serie A ambassadors, while the latter are most distinctly Serie B. Put simply, if you want to show some proper respect and courtesy to the Holy See, then you had better maintain a separate embassy to the Vatican in Rome.

Ever since the 1929 concordat, the Vatican has mounted a zealous guard on the independence of its 100-acre, landlocked sovereign city-state enclave in the heart of Rome. First time Irish visitors, on discovering the Irish State runs (or ran) two diplomatic missions in the city – one to the Holy See and the other to the Italian state – often express surprise. Surely, they ask, a small country such as Ireland could make do with just one embassy which would handle relations with both the Vatican and Italy?

However, the point about the dual missions in Rome (and many other countries have two embassies here) is that they owe their existence to the Holy See’s desire to separate itself from the Italian state. It is the Holy See that refuses to accept an ambassador who is working out of the same building as the ambassador to Italy.

To some extent, the question goes back to first World War days when there was only one national embassy in Rome. When both Austria and Germany, then at war with Italy, withdrew their diplomatic representation, the Holy See found itself without German or Austrian interlocutors. In its finely tuned Jesuitical thinking, the Holy See objected to ambassadors being withdrawn because, while Italy might have been at war with Austria and Germany, the Holy See was not.

Countries which, whether through political choice or financial constraint, opt not to have a separate Vatican embassy usually end up “tagging on” Holy See responsibilities to their ambassador in a neighbouring country. The Holy See takes a dim view of this practice and the ambassador in question is very much a second-class citizen on the Vatican diplomatic circuit.

Read the whole thing.

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  • Cynic2

    “as far as the Holy See is concerned, the former are Serie A ambassadors”

    what self centred pomposity. I assume this si driven by the Vatican’s own internal structures and little power games which are top heavy and demand some justification for the money they spend. No point wasting it ion the poor

  • Alias

    If the government are spinning the cancelation of its higher diplomatic relations with the Vatican as a cost-cutting exercise rather than as an anti-Catholic gesture, then which other emabassies are being cancelled at part of this alleged review of such services?

    If it is just the Vatican that is being targetted then it is not, contrary to the spin, an economic action but rather a profoundly political one. Where is the government’s mandate for its ulterior agenda against the Catholic Church?

  • Pete Baker


    “then which other emabassies are being cancelled at part of this alleged review of such services?”


  • Alias

    Just one? A review should be more extensive than that.

    Also, if, according to the government, an embassy doesn’t need to be in the foreign state – as the removal of the Irish ambassador from the Italian state to the foreign Vatican state shows – then why not have a central office for all states on one continent?

  • manichaeism

    They’re expecting the Israeli’s to nuke Tehran and don’t want any embassy staff to get vaporized!

  • manichaeism

    East Timor embassy is to be closed also.

  • Pete Baker


    That wasn’t an Embassy. Merely a representative office adminstrating an aid program – opened in 2000.

  • manichaeism


  • Cahir O’Doherty

    Just thought I should add that the building which houses the Irish Embassy to the Holy See is the most expensive embassy building, and probably the one with the lowest economic return. I imagine it was on that basis that the government have decided to shut up shop (and presumably put that shop on the market).

  • Pete Baker


    They’re not selling it. They’re re-cycling it, as the Italian Embassy.

    See my previous post, linked above.

  • Cahir O’Doherty

    Ah, I stand corrected. Even still though, saving 1.25million euro is worth it. They may not be classed as a Serie A country, but does anyone really care? Even Cardinal Brady’s comments were fairly muted on the subject:

    “I look forward to a time when the government will again appoint a resident ambassador to the Holy See,”

  • Cynic2

    Look, there’s an awful lot of nonsense here.

    The Vatican State was only created in 1929. It is not the same as the Holy See.

  • sherdy

    ‘Proper respect’ for the Holy See?
    I was always taught that respect had to be earned, and after the Church’s devious and dishonest behaviour over the years where child abuse and their protection of the abusers is concerned, the Church has never attempted to earn anyone’s respect. Fancy vestments, incense and talking down to their parishioners does not work anymore.
    I still await their first moves to gain any respect, never mind ‘proper’ respect.

  • From Reuters:

    “This is really bad for the Vatican because Ireland is the first big Catholic country to do this and because of what Catholicism means in Irish history,” said a Vatican diplomatic source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

    He said Ireland informed the Vatican shortly before the announcement was made on Thursday night.

    Dublin’s foreign ministry said the embassy was being closed because “it yields no economic return” and that relations would be continued with an ambassador in Dublin.

    The source said the Vatican was “extremely irritated” by the wording equating diplomatic missions with economic return, particularly as the Vatican sees its diplomatic role as promoting human values.

    Diplomats said the Irish move might sway others to follow suit to save money because double diplomatic presences in Rome are expensive.