Few will question the significance of only the second ever visit by a reigning pope to Ireland – to come in August of this year.
Since the last papal visit, by Pope John Paul II, in 1979, Ireland is a vastly changed place. Most importantly, the Irish Catholic clerical institution has been drastically weakened by a series of catastrophic scandals relating to clerical abuse of children and the revelation that church-run institutions for the most vulnerable in the last century were seriously deficient in compassion and care.
This has also challenged the Catholic faith of the wider Irish church, paralysing all discourse – at a time when global media present us with so many alternative mindsets and lifestyles. The very future of Catholicism in Ireland is now in question.
Furthermore, five years after the election of Pope Francis in 2013, few if any Irish bishops have unmistakeably allied with his declared programme of ‘going to the margins’ in compassionate outreach, forsaking formalism and aloofness. None has clearly opposed the movement of opposition to the pope’s prioritisation of compassion towards those in irregular relationships, an opposition led by Cardinal Raymond Burke.
Might this fence-sitting posture change, now that Pope Francis is to breathe Irish air for two days? What might he say to us in August that could trigger real change here?
For certain, change is needed. Deep set in crisis we need to hear papal words of hope and challenge – and the same notes sounded with the same conviction by our own bishops.
(From the website of the Irish Bishops’ Conference)
Bishops warmly welcome Pope Francis to the World Meeting of Families in Dublin – 21st Mar, 2018
The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference has warmly welcomed the announcement today by the Holy Father Pope Francis that he will attend part of the 9th World Meeting of Families which will take place from 21 – 26 August in Dublin on the theme, ‘The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World’.
Pope Francis, who is 81 years of age, will arrive in Dublin on Saturday, 25 August, and will take part in the ‘Festival of Families’ in Croke Park. The Festival of Families is the faith-based cultural concert of the World Meeting of Families six-day programme. The next day, Sunday 26 August, Pope Francis will be the chief celebrant at Holy Mass in the Phoenix Park and this liturgy will bring to a conclusion the World Meeting of Families 2018.
Full details of the papal schedule will be released at a later date.
The bishops said, “On behalf of the faithful of Ireland we warmly welcome today’s announcement, by the Holy Father himself, that he plans to visit Dublin in August for the World Meeting of Families. We are deeply honoured that Pope Francis will come to our country to participate in this universal Church celebration of faith and joy, as well as of the contemporary challenges which face families. With great anticipation we also look forward to hearing the apostolic guidance of His Holiness during his stay with us.”
Bishops continued, “Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, as President of the World Meeting of Families 2018, has been charged with undertaking the significant task of organising this global celebration and each of the other 25 dioceses on the island of Ireland is supporting the host diocese to ensure its success for the whole country and for the world. We eagerly await the visit of Pope Francis which no doubt will be an occasion of spiritual renewal for our laity, religious and clergy as well as a strengthening of Christian family life.“
The preparations for the World Meeting of Families in Dublin are benefiting from the 2014 and 2015 Synods of Bishops in Rome which discussed the role of the modern family in the world and how the Church should respond. Both synods were hosted by Pope Francis and were preceded by a worldwide consultation. The subsequent publication by the Holy Father, in April 2016, of his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (the Joy of Love), represents the fruit of these synods as he reflected on the significance of the deep mutual love of spouses and on their love for their children for the good of humanity and for the stability of society.”
Also today in Rome two Irish families presented the official World Meeting of Families 2018 ‘Icon of the Holy Family’ to Pope Francis during his weekly general audience in Saint Peter’s Square. The Tobin family are from Co Kildare and the Bushell family are resident in Rome. The delegation was led by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, President, and Father Timothy Bartlett, Secretary General, of the World Meeting of Families 2018. The group also included the iconographer Mr Mihai Cucu.
It seems to me that we have too high expectations of Pope Francis. I am reminded of Cornelius in Acts who tried to bow down before Peter and Peter gently rebuking him reminding him that he was just a man like any other.
I admire and love Pope Francis but haven’t we a model of how to act and to be towards each other in the Gospels. Francis’s documents, Laudato Si and Amoris Laetitia, show he is following in the Master’s footsteps.
If he doesn’t come to Armagh or to the north then I hope to make it to the Phoenix Park as a sign of solidarity and support for a pontiff who is doing his best to carry out his mission. We mustn’t expect too much of this two day visit but as I said in a previous comment I applaud the ACI’s reaching out in Nazarene fashion to include all in this pre-WMOF event.
That Irish air you talk about, Sean, may be so laden with unctuous, obsequious, nauseating kow-towing from the many fence-sitters and their entourages that the Pope may find it even more difficult to breath than when in Rome! I just wish for less pomposity and fewer barriers to a genuine meeting of hearts.
A physician once said, “ The best medicine for humans is love.”
Someone asked, “ What if it doesn’t work?”
He smiled and said, “Increase the dose.”
I guess that’s what we all need to do, increase the dose and keep trying to make sure everyone gets the medicine.
The news that Pope Francis is to attend the WMOF 2018 in Dublin later this year is to be warmly welcomed. What lasting impact the Pope’s visit will make on the church in Ireland is difficult to predict. I wouldn’t hold out much hope of the visit acting as a stimulus for significant change. After all the leadership of the church in Ireland will be the same in September when the Pope has left our shores. Why should we expect the bishops to abandon the safety of the ‘fence’ after 5 years of largely failing to engage with the people in their diocese to see how best we could promote the reform agenda of Pope Francis? It is only fair to acknowledge that a few bishops have made such efforts but sadly they are very much in the minority.
The best hope of change, therefore may well lie with the lay faithful. What if Pope Francis were to appeal to the ordinary people in the pews – over the heads of the bishops? What if we are asked by Francis to actively engage in reforming the church at local level- to start the process of re-building from the bottom up. Surely this is what is required – a radical reform led by the lay faithful.
It may not be realistic to expect such an outcome when Pope Francis comes among us in August but we are entitled to dream. Anyway is it not every bit as realistic as anticipating a radical change of direction on the part of our bishops?
Good questions, Noel – especially because the energy for rebuilding seems generally low among clergy. That sense of a new era, and of new opportunities – very present in the pope’s thinking – has still to find true echoes here. My guess is that too many envisage ‘church recovery’ as restoration of the social and political power of clergy, i.e. of Christendom, rather than welcome of the loss of that very power and status in an entirely new mission to the social base. For a true recovery we need ‘new eyes’ – a realisation of the radical call to justice and to opposition to social indifference – e.g. re the issues of homelessness and the discarding of those who can’t ‘make it’ in a ‘meritocratic’ world. How many of our clergy yet see the radical social implications of the Gospel – and preach that with passion? Too true – for resurgence we must look to the wider church, the ‘merely baptised’.
Certainly it’s wonderful that Pope Francis is coming to Ireland, we need every last drop of encouragement in keeping our faith in the Irish Church. I share the previous views that the visit will not result in significant change but it may nourish hope in the possibility of some renewal led by the laity in the pews. We have seen no evidence of an appetite for change from an ageing and battered clergy.
The ACI event ‘Future Families: Challenges for Faith and Society’ on April 14th in the Hilton Hotel, Charlemont Place, Dublin 2, will seek to ensure that marginalised families and those estranged from the church will be given an opportunity to have their voice heard in advance of the World Meeting of Families in August. Hopefully the message of our recognition of the reality of life for families today and our support for his reform agenda will reach Francis when he visits us.