A priest from South Derry has entered the row over Pope Francis’s invitation to Northern Ireland, questioning why the First Minister back tracked so quickly after stating he had “no need or desire” to meet the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
Fr Eamon Murray, a native of Magherafelt, who has served in parishes in England over the past 20 years, said Peter Robinson needed to explain the softening in his stance.
Two weeks ago the First Minister said as a Protestant he had no need or desire to meet the Pope and described Belfast council’s motion inviting the pontiff as a “fanciful political stunt on the part of the SDLP.”
Mr Robinson also downplayed the likelihood of an imminent Papal visit and made clear that if the security situation allowed for such an event, Catholics should be able to welcome the leader of their church to the Province.
Fr Murray who is planning to meet with Belfast councillors, to discuss the Papal invite when he returns after Easter.
“I am interested to know why Mr Robinson has back tracked so quickly. It reminds me of how quickly he back tracked over his offer to resign over the OTR’s recently, “ he said. I feel he needs to explain his sudden change of mind. He also needs to explain why all the DUP Councillors of Belfast City Council abstained on the vote to invite the Pope.
“Mr Robinson was adamant he would not shake the Pope’s hand nor welcome him to Northern Ireland. The reason was because he didn’t share or subscribe to the same faith as the Holy Father.
“That argument was a very poor one because we are all Christians. The Queen shook the Pope’s hand, she does not share the same faith as Catholics. The Pope will soon shake hands with the King of Jordan along with Jews and Palestinians on a trip to the Holy Land.
“They certainly do not share our Christian faith but they will all shake his hand. Peter Robinson, I think, has understood or been made to understand the futility of his previous stance. He realises that his attitude would cost the DUP votes.”