Ireland joins world reaction to Pope Benedict’s abdication

Ireland joined the rest of the world in reacting to Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to step aside at the end of the month.

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny had nothing but praise for the 85-year-old pontiff.

“Pope Benedict has given strong leadership and great service to the Church and her people for many decades,” Kenny said. “I know that all of their thoughts and prayers will be with the holy father at this time, and also with those who will shortly gather in conclave to choose his successor.”

That’s quite a change of tune from July 2011, when Kenny made headlines with his biting criticism of the Vatican’s handling of priest/child sex abuse scandal in Ireland. He accused the Holy See of “dysfunction, disconnection, elitism — the narcissism — that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day.”

Last September, Kenny drew criticism for checking his mobile phone during a meeting with the pope.

The Irish Times provided additional reaction from Irish leaders about the pope’s decision.

Benedict never visited Ireland, though it was rumored he might attend the 50th Eucharistic Congress in Dublin last June.

“It’s a pity he never made it to Ireland,” David Quinn, director of the Iona Institute writes in a thoughtful reflection on the pope’s legacy in Ireland. “Had he come here I am convinced that no matter how much controversy there might have been in the lead-up to his visit, he would have won most of us over once he arrived…”

There’s never been an Irish or Irish-American pope. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, at 25-to-1 odds, is considered to have the best chance of being elevated among cardinals from Ireland or of Irish descent.