Wednesday, 19th September 2018
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Returning to Ireland

In 1980 the present Pope Francis came to Ireland to study English at the Jesuit Center in Dublin. Now some decades later he came back to Ireland and there were tens of thousands of people lining the streets to see him.

Although this was not an official State visit there were elements of his time here that encompassed the ceremonial of a State visit. He visited the President and his wife in Phoenix Park and met an assembled gathering of the great and the good in Dublin Castle.

But what his visit will be most remembered for is the manner in which he met the ordinary people of Ireland. His visit to Sean McDiarmid Street and the Capuchin Centre in the heart of Dublin saw the Pope reaching out to the ordinary people of the country. It is this common touch, his ability to meet and talk with everyday people that has been a hallmark of his Papacy so far since he took office a number of years ago.

However it was the World Meeting of the Family that really brought him here to Ireland and it was the focus of his visit. He spoke to thousands of attendees of the meeting which undoubtedly was a highlight for many of the pilgrims. The fact that the family was the focus of his visit here to Ireland is central to the way in which the Pope understands his ministry.

He spoke on many occasions about how the family was the glue that holds society together. He also spoke about the manner in which the understanding of family has changed over the decades and the need for the Catholic Church to fully understand that.

While the Pope's message and the content of the four speeches he made whilst here in Ireland would have been heartening to many people there are some who feel that the Pope didn't go far enough, or show enough understanding, when it came to certain issues.

It was natural that the whole topic of church sexual abuse of minors and the manner in which the church inevitably tried to hush it up was a focus of intense interest for many people. While the Pope did address the issue he didn't, according to some campaigners, show a full and comprehensive understanding of the role in which the Church played, and continues to play, around the whole topic.

Here was a duality to the Pope's visit that wasn't missed by many people. On the one hand there were huge numbers of people that were enthused by the Pope's visit here to Ireland but on the other hand there were those who while they acknowleged the importance of the visit didn't feel that the Pope addressed certain issues enough. There was even a small demonstration against the Pope's visit in Dublin by people affected by clerical sexual abuse. A token effort but one that was hugely symbolically important for many people.

The visit by Pope Francis was a historic affair but it's true importance most likely will not be understood for many years to come.

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