Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Dermot Ahern T.D. on the death of His Holiness Pope John Paul II
I have learned with great sadness of the death today of His Holiness Pope John Paul II. His loss will be deeply felt by Irish people of all faiths, by Catholics worldwide and by the wider international community.
For over 26 years, Pope John Paul II provided a strong and independent voice of conscience to the world. He was a profound influence for good in a troubled world. He spoke out with great clarity for hope, for human dignity and human rights, for justice and for the peaceful resolution of disputes. His spiritual message and his great physical courage were a source of inspiration to people of goodwill everywhere.
I was privileged to meet with Pope John Paul last November, when I visited Rome for the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the opening of diplomatic relations with the Holy See. Although physically frail, his spirit was strong and he was determined to emphasise the significance of the relationship between the Holy See and Ireland.
Most of us have vivid memories of the Papal Visit to Ireland in 1979. The Pope spoke out powerfully in Drogheda on the evil of violence and appealed directly to those engaged in violence to take the path of peace. I believe that his words were an important contribution to the efforts which have been transforming the situation through an inclusive process based on peace, on dialogue and on mutual respect.
Last year, here in Ireland and across Europe, we celebrated the historic enlargement of the European Union. It is important to remember the part played by Pope John Paul II in that transformation. From the time of his first visit home to Poland as Pope, he brought pressure to bear on the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe, in particular in the critical area of respect for human rights. This pressure, I believe, contributed significantly to the eventual collapse of the regimes.
The very considerable legacy of Pope John Paul II will become fully apparent in decades to come. However, for now it is appropriate that we take time to mourn the passing of one of the most important, respected and loved figures of our era.