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Pope Francis’ Visit to Ireland
In a letter addressed to the People of Ireland on 30 August, Pope Francis wrote: “I am excited at the thought of returning to Ireland.” In 1980, as a young Jesuit priest, he came to learn English in Ireland, and his experience there obviously left him with happy memories. The specific reason for his recent visit to Ireland was to attend the Ninth World Meeting of Families, a Vatican-sponsored event which takes place every three years in different countries, and on this occasion, it was held in Ireland.
The meeting lasted for five days, with three days concentrating on the family and two days on the visit of Pope Francis. The Meeting of Families held a cultural event for the Pope in Croke Park, Dublin. Addressing the thousands present, Pope Francis said: “As you know, the World Meeting of Families is a celebration of God’s plan for the family. It is also an occasion for families all over the world to meet and support one another in living out their special vocation.” Families from India, Canada, Iraq (now refugees in Australia), Ireland and Burkina Faso stood on the stage near the Pope while pre-recorded video versions of their testimonies played. The Pope said that the stories shared by the couples clearly show the strength and power that comes from faith and from the grace of sacramental marriage. He also told them that, as lay people, they make up the vast majority of church members, and that without them the church would not succeed. The reflections of those present indicate how wonderful the experience was. One of those present said: “I feel very blest by the presence of Pope Francis and by many other moments of grace and joy that I was part of during five short days in August 2018.” The Conference of Irish bishops have hailed the Meeting of Families, and Francis’ visit to the country as a great success, which has left behind many special memories and special joys. The papal visit offered the people present an opportunity to proclaim and live what the Pope calls “The Gospel of the Family.” God wants every family to be a beacon of joy of his love to our world. He enjoyed performances by Irish dance troupe Riverdance, the best-selling artists the Singing Priests, and the world-renowned tenor, Andrea Bocelli.
On Sunday morning, 2 September, Pope Francis travelled by plane to Knock, to visit the National Shrine of Our Lady in Ireland. The visit of the Pope to Knock was a fully ticketed event, with 35,000 tickets allotted. So great was the demand that they were booked out in a matter of hours. On arrival, Pope Francis made a tour of the waiting crowds in his popemobile, and he addressed the thousands in the waiting crowd: “My pilgrimage to Knock allows me also to address a warm greeting to the beloved people of Northern Ireland. May Our Lady look with mercy on all the suffering members of her Son’s family.” He mentioned Northern Ireland and regretted that his visit did not include a visit to the north. A missionary sister from the North of Ireland travelled to Dublin for the Papal Mass. She summed up what we should expect from the Pope’s visit. She said that all the revelations of abuse will help the church and all of us to be more humble, less institutional, less hierarchical and more Christlike, to be true to the gospel that we are called to proclaim. I hope the visit of the Pope is an opportunity for all of us, as church in Ireland, to grow and to commit ourselves to be an instrument of even greater good in the world. Pope Francis has a great devotion to Our Lady and St Joseph. The Apparition Chapel at Knock appeals to Francis because when Our Lady appeared, she bought the family with her: St Joseph, St John the Evangelist and the Lamb of God representing Our Lord.
Pope Francis returned by plane to Dublin for the final event of his visit, namely the Papal Mass in the Phoenix Park where thousands of pilgrims assembled.
My wish would be that our saintly Pope Francis would call for a third Vatican Council to implement some of the documents of Vatican 11, and offer other documents about how to deal with the modern world in which we live. The people could pray like St Pope John XXIII for a new Pentecost. Two of the DHS Sisters were privileged to be able to attend the visit of the Pope at the two main events he held in Dublin. They attended the Cultural Concert held in Dublin’s Croke Park, where members of the five continents spoke of their family life. Sr Veronica Hanrahan and Sister Ita Durnin who now live in our DHS community in Dublin, after having spent 40 and 30 years respectively in Nigeria teaching the youth of that country, not only represented the EIW Province, but the large Family of the DHS.
Josephine Egan, DHS, EIW Province. Published September 18, 2018