It’s been 40 years since Pope St John Paul II’s iconic visit to Ireland, which drew crowds of millions. Since then Ireland has changed dramatically, but his messages of peace and faith are as relevant today as if they were said yesterday.
The Polish Pontiff, who was just 59 years old at the time, kissed the ground the moment his feet touched Irish soil, drawing huge cheers from those gathered.
It is well documented that about a third of Ireland’s population attended the Pope’s Mass in the Phoenix Park, but two of his most memorable messages were made during different addresses.
It was after the Phoenix Park Mass on September 29, 1979, that he travelled to Killineer, near Drogheda, and spoke in front of a crowd of about 300,000. He wholeheartedly engaged with the issues that were devastating communities in the North of Ireland, and begged those engaged in violence during the Troubles to stop.
He was unable to visit the North because of security concerns due to the horrors of the civil conflict raging at the time, but many people from Northern Ireland made the trip.
The Pope famously said: “Now I wish to speak to all men and women engaged in violence. I appeal to you in language of passionate pleading. On my knees I beg you to turn away from the paths of violence and to return to the ways of peace. You claim to seek justice, I too, believe in justice and seek justice. But violence only delays the day of justice.
“Violence destroys the work of justice. Further violence in Ireland will only drag down to ruin the land you claim to love and the values you claim to cherish.
“In the name of God I beg you: return to Christ, who died so that men might live in forgiveness and peace.”
John Paul II was much-loved in Ireland and his visit had a profound impact. Some 10% of boys born in Ireland in 1979 were named after the Pope.
On September 30, at the Mass for Youth in Galway, is when he uttered probably the most famous words for many people during his visit to Ireland: “Young people of Ireland, I love you!”
The moral standards that the Church and society have held up to you for so long a time will be presented as obsolete”
He also warned young people of a future that decries religion as archaic, and how worldly interests would be presented as a new standard of living, leading to selfishness.
“The moral standards that the Church and society have held up to you for so long a time will be presented as obsolete and a hindrance to the full development of your own personality,” St John Paul II said.
“Mass media, entertainment, and literature will present a model for living where all too often it is every man for himself, and where the unrestrained affirmation of self leaves no room for concern for others.”