Pope Francis in Ireland


Sir, – What wonderful scenes of joy and happiness we’ve witnessed during Pope Francis’s visit to our beautiful country. Míle buíochas to all those people who have made this visit such a wonderful experience for all. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 5.

Sir, – During the Edinburgh Festival, I attended Mass at St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Leith Walk. It was built in 1814 after the previous chapel at Blackfriars Wynd had been burned down by a mob. It was hidden by the surrounding buildings as a safety precaution at a time of hostility towards Catholics. It is now swamped by the towering glass constructions of retail stores due to massive reconstruction in the area.

A priest of Donegal parents gave a sermon of deep conviction to the large congregation, on the Eucharist as essential nourishment for union with Christ. In that historic venue, one could not but think of the risk parishioners took in the 1800s when religious freedom was denied them.

In recent Irish media coverage of Catholicism there has been an almost exclusive focus on the heinous failures in the institutional church, but with scant reference to the core of Catholicism, namely, our faith in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This is cultivated not by passivity but through the discipline of prayer and respect for the sacraments, including the minimum observance of weekly attendance at Mass. This was the pearl of great price our ancestors clung to in times of persecution.

Today, religious freedom is threatened in Ireland as societal attitudes make practising Catholics feel somehow out of step with modern thinking. Non-attendance at Mass is, it would seem, a badge of being trendy, of “chic” non-committal.

Yet people yearn for something more fulfilling, transcendent, beyond all that is distracting and banal. Catholics find this in Christ’s words, recounted in the Gospels which are the rock that persists in spite of human frailty. – Yours, etc,


Gorey, Co Wexford.

Sir, – The ridiculous extent of car dependency in Ireland is laid bare with the arrival of the pope.

I turned the radio on this morning to hear heated debate regarding plans that people will have to leave their vehicles some distance away from where events are taking place and will make the remainder of the journey without four wheels and an engine under them. Shock and horror!

Get a grip, Ireland. – Yours, etc,


Hackney, London.

A chara, – Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, speaking at Dublin Castle at the visit of Pope Francis, was gracious in acknowledging: “Providing healthcare, education and welfare is now considered a core function of our State. When the State was founded, it was not. The Catholic Church filled that gap to the benefit of many generations of our people. We remain profoundly grateful for that contribution.” He went on to say: “There can only be zero tolerance for those who abuse innocent children or who facilitate that abuse.”

Each and every case of such abuse is a serious injustice. If Mr Varadkar is serious about this, zero tolerance must apply also to bodies other than the Catholic Church. And yet the church is so far the only body which has been subjected to protracted scrutiny, although the vast majority of cases of child sexual abuse are carried out by people who are not church officials. This is seen in the report of the Murphy Commission on handling of allegations by church and State authorities in Dublin diocese. Paragraph 2.18 of the report says: “The commission was fortunate in that the archdiocese had assembled a good deal of its documentation ... The archdiocese had transferred that information onto a computer programme, much of which was transferred to the commission.” In relation to HSE documents, however, it says (1.98): “The health boards and the HSE do not properly record cases of clerical child sexual abuse”, and that (6.62): “The commission concluded that it would take nearly ten years to complete this process” of examining the files. The commission did not carry out that task.

In relation to Garda documents (2.20): “They were unable to supply files in relation to some of their activities in the 1960s, 1970s, or 1980s as these had been destroyed or mislaid. Members of the force ... gave evidence of their recollections of those cases.”

Continuous scrutiny has continued of the church. No other body has yet been subjected to comparable scrutiny. I await Mr Varadkar’s steps to apply zero tolerance to other areas of society for the other 98 per cent of cases. We cannot know whether the church situation was better or worse than in society in general, unless there is equal scrutiny of other organisations. – Is mise,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – Maybe on the next occasion of a papal visit you might consider a media blackout from the time the visit is announced to when the pope boards a plane for Dublin. This will save us from stories about mountains of sandwiches, road closures, public transport distribution, non-travelling cardinals, child abuse cover-ups and letters on how we are now the best/worst Catholics on the planet.

Let’s get back to normal today, and we already know that normal isn’t good enough. – Yours, etc,


Lucan, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Pope Francis made a deep impression on me and doubtless many others. He is a person of profound humility, kindness and warmth. I was moved by his request that people pray for him. He deserves all our help in the great task of renewal that lies before him. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.