People should write to Pope Francis to encourage him to visit the tomb of Matt Talbot when he comes to Dublin next year, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has said. Speaking in Maynooth at a conference on priestly formation, Archbishop Martin spoke of how priests come from the “holy people of God”, a term the Pope regularly uses when speaking of ordinary Catholics, especially those from marginalised communities.
“The bishop’s main point was the importance of the holy people of God, with Matt Talbot as example,” said Fr Richard Ebejer, former administrator of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish on Seán McDermott Street, where Talbot’s shrine is. He added that he was delighted that the famous Dublin ascetic had been mentioned, and so asked whether the Pontiff might be prevailed upon to visit Talbot’s tomb, which St John Paul II was widely expected to visit in 1979 although doing so had never been on his schedule.
“The local people had prepared for the visit, and had been disappointed when the Pope did not visit,” the Maynooth-based Salesian told The Irish Catholic, saying that this showed how it is “good not to raise expectations”.
Fr Ebejer has previously said that the disappointment felt locally at St John Paul’s failure to visit the tomb is still palpable today, and that while the North inner city is a marginalised community which has a social stigma attached to it, it has many positive aspects which the archbishop himself has often highlighted.
“There’s a strong sense of solidarity there,” Fr Ebejer said, describing the area as a “local community struggling to lift itself out of poverty”. He pointed to how Dr Martin has spoken about the role of mothers and grandmothers keeping families together when things went wrong, and noted how – even among families where religious practice is low – there is a strong attachment there to the local church.
Fr Eddie Conway OP of the nearby St Saviour’s Church, where Talbot had been going when he collapsed and died in Granby Lane in 1925 agreed it would be good if the Pope visited a community that is so often marginalised.
Stressing that details of the papal visit have not been confirmed, Fr Conway described the failure to visit the tomb in 1979 as “a terrible omission” and said “It would be good for the Pope to visit him – he’s Dublin’s holy man, the saint of the working class, known for how he fought with the whole addiction thing, and someone people can identify with.”
Matt Talbot was declared ‘venerable’ by Pope Paul VI in October 1975.