Cardinal Brady 'to remind Pope' of invite to Ireland

Mon, Nov 26, 2007, 00:00

Interview:Cardinal Brady stresses that peace in the North must be bedded down, writes Patsy McGarry.

Cardinal Seán Brady is expected to raise the matter of a papal visit to Ireland at his audience with Pope Benedict, scheduled to take place later this morning.

Speaking at the Irish College in Rome last night he said he "probably would mention the visit". He might remind the Pope.

In October of last year the Irish Catholic bishops formally invited Pope Benedict to Ireland during their formal ad limina visit (which usually takes place every five years).

Cardinal Brady said such a visit would be seen as a completion of that undertaken by Pope John Paul in September 1979, but which was considered "incomplete" as he was unable to visit any diocese in Northern Ireland because of the Troubles.

The new cardinal said that therefore, should Pope Benedict visit Ireland, that he would "probably" go to Armagh. He also repeated, as said already in newspaper interviews, that he would not expect the First Minister Dr Ian Paisley to attend or participate in events related to the visit.

When it was pointed out to him that Pope John Paul's Irish visit had taken place as he was en route to the US and that it was planned Pope Benedict would visit America next April, Cardinal Brady drew attention to the Pope's age and that a papal visit would have to be in "an appropriate context". It might also be a short visit in its own right, he indicated.

He said that Pope Benedict sent his good wishes to the Irish people when they spoke at the end of a lunch with the new cardinals yesterday.

Cardinal Brady said progress in the peace process was a source of "consolation" for him, as was the presence at his consistory of the North's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, the Northern Secretary Shaun Woodward, as well as members of the Northern Assembly.

However, he emphasised it was "important that progress be maintained" and that peace be bedded down.

He agreed that what was happening in Northern Ireland now was an answer to Pope John Paul's prayer at Drogheda in 1979 when he pleaded for peace "on my knees".

Since he had gone to live in the North Cardinal Brady said he had been aware of "the intense desire for peace among the majority of people" there. Now too they could "see the benefits of having their own elected representatives," he said.

For the first time a new Irish cardinal was guest of honour at a reception hosted by a British ambassador to the Holy See in Rome last night.

Cardinal Brady was honoured by Ambassador Francis Campbell, who is from Newry and the first Catholic to represent Britain at the Holy See since the Reformation.

Also in attendance were President Mary McAleese, Martin McGuinness, Shaun Woodward, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern, and a large number of Irish Catholic bishops.

The cardinal said he had been "very surprised" by the very many good wishes he had received from people of other Christian denominations and faiths. There were three boxes of goodwill correspondence in Armagh, he said. And a lot of people had travelled from Ireland for the consistory, including 1964 classmates from Maynooth.

He recalled that when he was ordained in Rome in 1964, just 10 people travelled from Ireland. Last night it was estimated that the number of Irish at the consistory might have been near 1,000.

He repeated what he said at a reception on Saturday night that being made a cardinal was "almost as good as winning Sam Maguire". He was responding to a remark by President McAleese that it would be interesting to see what effect there might be on Cavan football of having a former county footballer on the College of Cardinals "with presumably considerably more pulling power now in terms of prayer".