No ‘Pope Francis Effect’ confession boom in Ireland

While the election of Pope Francis has reportedly brought people flocking back to the Church in Britain and the United States, the Pope appears to have had no such effect in Ireland.


A recent survey of clergy based in cathedrals across England and Wales found that two thirds had noticed an upturn in numbers going to Confession, something many of them attributed to a papal ‘bounce’ known in the US as the ‘Francis Effect’.


However, an informal survey of priest chaplains in Ireland conducted by this newspaper found that there has been no equivalent boost in numbers confessing their sins here since the election of the new Pontiff.


University chaplains contacted by The Irish Catholic this week recorded no rise or fall in numbers requesting Confession. However, they remained hopeful that the ‘Francis Effect’ may gather momentum in the coming academic year.


University of Limerick chaplain, Fr John Campion, SDB told this paper the number of students requesting the Sacrament of Confession was “no different than previous years”. However, he pointed out the election of the new Pontiff coincided with the end of the academic term. “The students would have only been finding out about the Pope then,” he noted.


Pope Francis “has definitely touched the students and got them talking,” Fr Campion said. “So I would be very hopeful that the take up for Confession would be greater this year.”


Queen’s University Belfast chaplain, Fr Gary Toman said there has always been a good tradition of students going to Confession at the university. However, he had not seen any major boost in numbers since the papal election in March.


Mary Immaculate College chaplain Fr Michael Wall said they have the same “trickle of bodies” for Confession at the Limerick based teacher training college and “could not foresee the perceived major bounce” as a result of the new Pope.


Similarly, Fr Joe Glynn, OCD of St Teresa’s Church just off Dublin’s Grafton Street maintained there has been no increase to the already “constant flow” of people seeking Confession at the busy city centre church.


However, Spiritual Director of Youth 2000 Fr John Harris, OP is hopeful for the future of the Church under Pope Francis’ guidance. “Young people feel they can approach the Church differently now. Francis is very popular; there has been a great reaction to him,” he said.