Taoiseach concerned over ‘cult status’ of Scientology

The Taoiseach said there is a genuine concern around the Church of Scientology in this country and the fact that it may be a cult.

Taoiseach concerned over ‘cult status’ of Scientology

Leo Varadkar has also said the Government will “assist in any way” to facilitate Pope Francis’ visit to Ireland next year.

His comments on the Church of Scientology come after Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin called the religious congregation, which recently established a centre in Ireland, “a cult”.

Speaking at his party’s Ard Fheis in October, Mr Martin said: “These types of cults can be very damaging to people, particularly to young people.

“The best way forward needs to be examined, it may not be legislated. I think ultimately in situations like this it is about education.”

The Head of Scientology, David Miscavige, visited Dublin in October to open a new centre for the religion.

The building in Firhouse includes a conference centre with room for 1,100 people, but the census shows there are just 87 Scientologists in Ireland.

Asked about Scientology during a round-table briefing with journalists, Mr Varadkar said: “I know there is a genuine concern about the fact or the possibility that it could be a cult.

“At the same time I think we always have to balance freedom of religion or freedom of association on the one hand with protecting people from being exploited, and that is always a challenge.”

However, he dismissed Mr Martin’s suggestions that it requires Government examination, stating: “I read stuff, like you do. I don’t know enough about the Church of Scientology to know whether or to what extent the allegations made against them would require Government intervention of some sort.”

Mr Varadkar said he would be “loath to go down that route” of Government interfering with religious groups or putting restrictions on people’s freedom of association in any way.

Asked about the Pope’s visit to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families next year, the Taoiseach said the Government had met heads of the Catholic Church in Ireland and there would be ongoing dialogue ahead of the trip.

The visit of Pope Francis to Ireland is expected to cost around €20m and the Church has already begun fundraising to cover the expense.

Mr Varadkar said there would be further meetings with the Church in the New Year.

“They asked that we have someone here in the department as a contact point to assist them in the co-ordination and we made that available to them,” said Mr Varadkar.

“We just don’t know yet if will be a very short visit just for the Meeting of World Families or whether it will be an extended visit involving other things such as Northern Ireland, but we are very much at their disposal and the government will assist in any way to facilitate Pope Francis’ visit.”

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has confirmed the Pope is expected to say Mass in Phoenix Park when he visits next summer.

However, speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke last week, the archbishop said that the types of events possible during the visit in August were “quite limited” due to the Pope’s age of 81.

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