LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Ireland’s prime minister says he will tell the Vatican that “families in all their shapes and forms should be celebrated” when Pope Francis visits the country for an international Catholic family gathering taking place in August in Dublin.
Leo Varadkar, the first openly gay Irish leader, was speaking in the country’s parliament on Monday about the pope’s Aug. 25-26 visit to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families.
“All types should be celebrated, including the traditional nuclear family with the man married to the woman with children, one-parent families, families led by grandparents, and families led by same-sex couples. We will make it known in our meetings with the organizers that the government’s view is that families in all their forms should be celebrated,” he told members of the Dáil.
Varadkar also said Francis should meet with abuse victims during his visit to Dublin.
“Regarding survivors of Catholic institutions who were used, abused and mistreated in them, there is some indication, albeit I have not heard it through official channels but rather through the media, that the pontiff may wish to meet with former residents,” the prime minister said.
“That might be the most appropriate thing to do,” he said. “While he might also visit a location, the strongest statement would be to meet people who are in those places rather than just to visit them.”
Varadkar also justified the costs of the visit, saying, “The majority of taxpayers in the country would want us to meet these costs as it is an historic visit. The vast majority of people will welcome Pope Francis to our country.”
The pope’s visit is coming as the influence of the once-dominant Catholic Church is at its lowest point in Ireland, mostly due to a series of abuse scandals aimed at Catholic clergy and institutions.
In 2011, then- Prime Minister Enda Kenny said the “historic relationship between church and state in Ireland could not be the same again. The rape and torture of children were downplayed or ‘managed’ to uphold instead the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and reputation.”
A referendum on same-sex marriage was held in 2015, in which 62 percent of the voters backed changing the constitution to allow the practice.
Varadkar is currently leading the government’s efforts to remove Ireland’s constitutional protections for the unborn in another referendum scheduled to take place in late May, three months before the pope’s visit.
The week-long World Meeting of Families – held every three years – is meant to celebrate, pray and reflect upon the central importance of marriage and the family in society and the Church.
Varadkar is not the first official to say the event should welcome non-traditional families.
Earlier this month, the Irish Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone warned that “public statements or remarks which seek to isolate certain families” would not be tolerated during the meeting.
During a conference in Copenhagen on LGBT family issues, Zappone said that the organizers of the World Meeting of Families should be aware that Ireland is a place “where people want marriage equality, where adoption by LGBTI people is government policy, and where all families are fully respected.”
The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, has said the World Meeting of Families will be an “inclusive” event, open to all families.