Pope Francis and renewing Catholic Ireland

Dear Editor, The missed element in Andrew O’Connell’s Notebook ‘Revisiting the legacy of the papal visit’ (IC 15/5/14) is the question as to whether a visit to Ireland by Pope Francis could lead to the same effect on people here as that most memorable 1979 visit undertaken by now St John Paul II.

Quite rightly pointing to the impact on many thousands of the figure that was a legendary Pope, Mr O’Connell is also correct in writing, in relation to Pope Francis, that “when he looks at a map of Europe he’ll struggle to find a situation that needs reconciliation and encouragement more than Ireland”. But could a visit today bring that which is so badly needed?

Arguments in some quarters suggest that, even as far back as 1979, what John Paul’s visit achieved was not a renewal or a reinvigorating of Catholic Ireland, but merely a delaying of the inevitable in terms of the sad drift from Rome we have experienced in the intervening years. The year 1968 is accepted as the high point for vocations to Maynooth, and thereafter the decline was underway, quite separate to the shock of clerical abuse revelations to follow.

Were Pope Francis to visit today, no doubt his impact would be profound on those many thousands who still cling to the Faith through the many storms we have weathered. But for those who really need to hear the Pope’s message today, from our resistant political leaders to those who put their ‘faith’ in the transient elements of the Celtic Tiger, have they become too deaf to truly benefit as the Tiger merry-go-round once again gets underway?

Yours etc.,

Brian Coleman,


Co. Galway.