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Former Irish President restored to women’s day conference platform after Vatican row

16 February 2018


Speaker: Dr Mary McAleese chairs a public forum concerning the legacy of the Troubles, at St Paul’s Centre in central London, in January 2016

Speaker: Dr Mary McAleese chairs a public forum concerning the legacy of the Troubles, at St Paul’s Centre in central London, in January 2016

A CONFERENCE to mark Inter­national Women’s Day next month, due to take place in the Vatican, has been moved after a row over the former Irish Presid­ent Dr Mary McAleese.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Congregation for the Laity, Family and Life, was given the list of speakers for the conference “Why Women Matter” for approval, but returned it without in­­cluding Dr McAleese, who is also a canon lawyer and a campaigner on womens’ rights.

She made headlines around the world when, in 1997, she received holy communion in Christ Church, the Cathed­ral of the Church of Ireland diocese of Dublin.

The Ugandan LGBT activist Ssenfuka Juanita Warry, a Roman Catholic lesbian, was also omitted from the list, as was the Polish theologian Zuzanna Radzik.

The event was organised by the group Voices of Faith, which seek­s to “empower and advocate for Catholic women to have a seat at the table of decision making in the Catholic Church”.

In a statement, the Association of Catholic Priests condemned the ex­­clus­­ion of Dr McAleese from the conference, and also the alleged edit­ing out of pictures of same-sex couples from the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) booklets for the Irish RC Church. (Cardinal Farrell is also overseeing the WMOFconference in Ireland in August.)

The statement said: “While both decisions are clearly part of the fallout from the present struggle in our Church between those who support the reform programme of Pope Francis and those who seek to block it, it is unacceptable that individuals and associations can exert such undue influence and be allowed to do so much damage.”

The RC Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, said in a statement: “Neither Archbishop Martin nor his offices were consulted by the Vatican in relation to this matter.”

The conference has now been moved from the Vatican to the Jesuit Curia’s Aula (hall), in Rome. Dr McAleese has now been elevated from a panel speaker, and will give the keynote speech at the meeting.

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