Ireland, perhaps the one country which is the most intimately connected to the Catholic Church, will close its embassy in the Vatican as part of the Dublin’s government ongoing cost-cutting program.

The Irish Republic will also shut down its embassies in Iran and East Timor. The government said it expects to save about 1.25 million euros ($1.7 million) annually from the closures.

It is with the greatest regret and reluctance that the government has decided to close Ireland's (embassy) to the Holy See, the Irish foreign ministry said in a statement. “[We believe] that Ireland's interests with the Holy See can be sufficiently represented by a non-resident ambassador.”

Most nations have maintained two diplomatic missions in Rome; one for Italy, the other for the Vatican.

However, Dublin emphasized that the decision to close its Vatican outpost was in no way related to the child abuse scandal that has erupted between Ireland and The Holy See.

Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore explained that his government has to cut expenditures in order to meet the terms of the huge bailout the country received from the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Cardinal Sean Brady, the primate of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, said he was profoundly disappointed by the closure of the Vatican embassy, which first opened in 1929.

I hope that [the] decision will be revisited as soon as possible, he said in a statement.

Brady also told Irish media: “This decision seems to show little regard for the important role played by the Holy See in international relations and of the historic ties between the Irish people and the Holy See over many centuries.

He added: “It is worth recalling that for the new Irish State, the opening of diplomatic relations with the Holy See in 1929 was a very significant moment. It was very important in asserting the identity and presence of the Irish Free State internationally in view of the fact that Irish diplomatic representation abroad was then confined to the legation in Washington, the office of the high commissioner in London, the permanent delegate to the League of Nations, and the Embassy to the Holy See.

In an editorial in The Irish Times newspaper, columnist Paddy Agnew wrote that the decision to close Ireland’s Vatican embassy has “huge historical and political significance.”