The nuncio in Ireland has been blasted for ignoring a female Church reform group co-coordinator, in a snub she described as like a “punch in the stomach”.

– Sexism from the Pope’s representative… for International Women’s Day

On International Women’s Day March 8, We Are Church Ireland carried out a peaceful protest for gender equality in the Church outside the Dublin nunciature, where about 30 people sang “No Women, No Church”, laid a floral wreath with that message, and read out a statement denouncing the Church denigration of women.

Ahead of the demonstration, We Are Church coordinators Colm Holmes and Ursula Halligan wrote to nuncio Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo to advise him that they were planning a “peaceful and prayerful gathering” outside the nunciature, and that their intention was “to be a friendly presence” that would communicate their message “with warmth and good humour”.

However, Okolo, in his reply, addressed himself only to Holmes – thereby ignoring Halligan – and that much only to inform him that due to a prior engagement, he would not be able to receive the We Are Church group.

– “The prejudice is so ingrained that they don’t even see us”

Speaking after the gathering at the nunciature to the Irish Times, Halligan lamented: “Myself and Colm wrote to the Papal Nuncio… We let him know this was happening and we offered to meet him.

“I signed it as the joint co-ordinator with Colm and he only responded to Colm. He blanked me, it’s extraordinary”.

In further comments to the Irish Independent, Halligan said Okolo’s response felt like a “punch in the stomach”.

“I think that the prejudice is so ingrained that they don’t even see us – they automatically go for the male and I think that just proves our point today about how sexist the institutional Church is”, the journalist and political editor of Irish TV station TV3 lamented.

– A nun’s testimony: “If the women all walked out the Church would collapse”

Speaking also to the Irish Times after the Sunday gathering, Sr Cora Richardson, an 85-year-old nun, lamented that “women have no real say in the Catholic Church and we object to that”.

“Women make up half or more than half of the Catholic Church and they have no real say. They are just sidelined. That’s why we’re standing up to let people know.

“I tell women they should be equal everywhere, not just in the Church. If the women all walked out of the Church – and they are walking out – I think the Church would collapse”.

– A powerful manifesto for gender equality

During the We Are Church Ireland meet outside the Dublin nunciature, Halligan read out a powerful statement demanding on behalf of women faithful everywhere “full recognition of our God given equality and dignity in the Catholic Church”.

“Women have had enough!”, Halligan denounced.

“Many of us are walking away.

“Those of us who stay, proclaim our equality and work for change. We believe in church structures that share decision making with all the people of God.

“We believe in a church where women are not invisible, silenced or ignored but share equally in all ministries”.

“In every other walk of life, women’s dignity and equality is being recognised; why should that stop at the church door?”, Halligan asked.

– Update 12/3/20 22:13 CET: Pope’s rep rectifies

According to a publication on the We Are Church Ireland Facebook page, Nuncio Okolo has sent a follow-up later to Holmes and Halligan, dated March 9, in which he acknowledges, this time, both reform group leaders.

Next on Novena:

Updated with full statement: Irish Catholics warn hierarchy: “Women will no longer put up with second class status”

German Bishops’ head wants permission from Rome to ordain female deacons as thousands of countrywomen protest for Church equality

Catholic Women’s Council calls on Church groups around the world to fight for “dignity and equality” of women

Catholic women’s rights activist urges “anger” at patriarchy, “courage” to embrace feminism

Viewpoint: “From lay women can come profound change to end fossilised clerical power”


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.