In his Newsletter last Friday, Jim Fitzpatrick made an interesting comparison of the opposition by the Orange Order to a proposed visit by the Pope to Northern Ireland with Sinn Fein’s opposition to a proposed visit by the Queen.
Highlighting the objections by Orange Order, he says:
“The Orange Order in Ireland has said members should not welcome the Pope to the UK because of theological objections.
“…anyone welcoming Pope Benedict is in danger of appearing to acknowledge his primacy and universal supremacy as Vicar of Christ on earth,” they argue.
So, it’s about the Order’s belief that the Pope sees himself as God’s man on earth with dominion over all before him. They reject his apparent claim to supremacy.”
In relation to Sinn Fein, he says:
“Sinn Fein has said it will oppose the visit of the Queen to the Republic scheduled for next year, the first by a British monarch since partition in 1921.
“Sinn Fein opposes the proposed state visit of the Queen of England, commander-in-chief of the British armed forces,” said TD Caoimhghin O Caolain.
“Until there is complete withdrawal of the British military and the British administration from Ireland, and until there is justice and truth for victims of collusion, no official welcome should be accorded to any officer of the British armed forces of any rank,” he continued.”
Of course, most decent Protestants have no problem with the Pope visiting Northern Ireland. It is also the case that decent Nationalists and Republicans have no problem with a visit to Ireland by the Queen. Fitzpatrick points out:
“Of course, the northern-born President of the Republic has no problem greeting the UK’s Head of State. Mary McAleese has been to Buckingham Palace on behalf of the nation and greeted the Queen at a number of events marking the sacrifices of tens of thousands of Irishmen who died in the trenches of the First World War as members of the same armed forces.
And the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Elizabeth II, has no problem meeting Popes, despite the rather bitter nature of the row between her 12th Great Grand Uncle, Henry VIII, and Pope Clement VII in the 16th century.”
Neither Sinn Fein nor the Orange Order will change their attitude in relation to these matters, since they are points dogma which define the two organisations.
In the longer term, both of these organisations are likely to lose support as an increasing proportion of the Northern Irish population come to understand and reject the debilitating effects of intolerance in their country.