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The Irish Anticipate A Papal Visit

January 11, 2018 Frontpage No Comments

By JOHN BURKE

GALWAY — The island of Ireland is expecting a papal visit just when it is bedeviled by interrelated moral, religious, and political issues.
It is not yet certain whether Pope Francis will say the closing Mass at the World Meeting of Families, taking place in Dublin from August 21-26, but the Vatican usually makes official confirmation of overseas visits six months in advance.
There is speculation here that an announcement will come on February 11, the very day that the entire Irish hierarchy will be in Galway for the installation of its new bishop. A diocesan spokesman told The Wanderer that American bishops would be welcome to attend, since the late Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston dedicated the present cathedral in 1965, having helped with fund-raising.
It was only last month that Pope Francis appointed the Most Rev. Brendan Kelly, currently bishop of Achonry, to succeed Martin Drennan who retired last year as bishop of Galway. Kelly spoke candidly at the funeral last March of an earlier bishop, Eamon Casey, who had resigned in 1992 following his affair with Annie Murphy, a divorcee from New York.
This scandal was eclipsed only by revelations of clerical pedophilia so widespread and unchecked that Ireland closed its embassy to the Holy See for three years. The clergy are demoralized and getting few recruits, hardly helped by Amoris Laetitia which has drawn criticism from some priests and victims of abuse.
Having already lost its guaranteed protection under the Republic of Ireland’s original constitution, the Catholic Church could not prevail against the popular vote in 2015 for the civil partnership of homosexuals. It was 62 percent in favor, although four out of ten ignored the ballot. A further referendum, about repealing the pro-life Eighth Amendment, is now under consideration in the Oireachtas. The referendum is likely to be held only weeks before the papal arrival.
Paradoxically, the primate of All-Ireland, Eamon Martin, cannot vote in such matters because his seat of Armagh is ten miles within British territory. Yet the pressure of lobbyists for civil partnership and abortion in the traditionally Catholic south is having an effect on the six counties that make up Northern Ireland.
With the equivalent of a state legislature, this is the only part of the United Kingdom that has managed to resist both abortion and homosexual marriage, thanks to Protestant politicians who consider themselves British. And without the ten Democratic Unionists in the London Parliament, the Conservative Party of Theresa May could govern only as a minority.
Back in Belfast, however, the always fragile power-sharing between the Unionists and Irish nationalists (Sinn Fein) has collapsed, reviving the threat of direct rule. In which case, both abortion and homosexual marriage could be enforced from London, not least to placate the nationalists who are more left-wing than Catholic.
A further complication is BREXIT, for which the British government must somehow satisfy both its Unionist allies and Nationalist opponents in Northern Ireland as well as politicians in the 32 counties which remain in the European Union — with its own anti-Christian agenda. Pope Francis has already encouraged a federal Europe, and might become even more controversial in Dublin.
Yet the visit will be extended, with a supernatural emphasis, if the much-televised wishes of a priest in westerly County Mayo are fulfilled. He is Fr. Richard Gibbons, rector of the shrine at Knock where 15 villagers saw a vision of Mary, Joseph, and John back in 1879.
Their images appeared on the gable wall of the parish church which is currently undergoing repairs as is also the largest hostel for some of the one and a half million pilgrims who go to Knock each year. Outside of the British Isles, the largest number comes from the USA and Canada, including 30 percent of coach tourists.
Timothy Cardinal Dolan led the first diocesan pilgrimage from New York three years ago. There is a Knock Shrine Association of America, founded by descendants of a Mayo family that included one of the visionaries.
Fr. Gibbons told me, “The work is on schedule for completion by Easter. There is nothing definite about a papal visit, but he will be most welcome.” Pope Francis has been asked to go there after Dublin just as John Paul II did for the centenary of the miraculous event whose story is told in the local museum.
It was at Knock last August that the archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, suggested the possibility. He was at the shrine to launch preparations for the World Meeting of Families whose slogan is Amoris. A possible sign of interest is that Msgr. Piotr Tarnawski from the Papal Nunciature was in westerly Galway only last month.
Appropriately, the Irish office of Human Life International is in nearby Knock, from where its project manager, Catherine Leigh, is asking Catholics all over Ireland to sign up for a million rosaries to combat the possible referendum that, if approved, would allow most abortions.

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