Just one diocese sending pilgrims to canonisations
JUST one Irish diocese has organised to send pilgrims to Rome for the historic double canonisations of two popes next weekend.
Fifty-three pilgrims from the diocese of Killaloe will take to the road this week with Bishop Kieran O'Reilly and will reach the Vatican in time for next Sunday's ceremony.
Pope Francis will declare John Paul II and John XXIII saints, with as many as 1.5 million pilgrims expected to be there for the occasion.
The pilgrims are all lay men and women, with the exception of Dr O'Reilly himself and the organiser, Fr Albert McDonnell, and hail from parishes across the diocese, which stretches from West Clare to Kinnitty.
Speaking to the Irish Independent yesterday in the parish of Christ the King in Ennis, he said there was "still a deep affection for John XXIII among people of a certain age".
And John Paul II, who visited Ireland in 1979, was the first ever pontiff to do so in the 2000-year history of the Catholic Church.
The pilgrims will also attend a special Mass next Monday, concelebrated by Cardinal Sean Brady and Dr O'Reilly for all the Irish faithful who have travelled to Rome.
Later this year, Dr O'Reilly will begin a new role with the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, which will involve travelling between Ennis and Rome.
He is the first member of the Irish hierarchy to be selected by Pope Francis for such a prestigious role, a recognition of his contribution to missionary work in places such as war-torn Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
Meanwhile, speaking after Easter Sunday Mass, Dr O'Reilly (61) spoke about the vocations crisis and its impact on the diocese of Killaloe. He said that the diocese was at a "very exciting" moment, having recently published its pastoral plan which maps out a path for the future direction of the church there.
He said the plan had highlighted the "many exciting and rediscovered roles of the faithful" including the possibility of becoming trained funeral ministers.
This proposal has sparked debate in the diocese as families face the prospect of not having a priest at the graveside during funerals.