Sainthood ceremony a beacon of hope and renewal, says Brady
THE leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland has welcomed the huge level of interest in this weekend's canonisations of the 'two modern popes', John XXIII and John Paul II, as a "great sign of hope and renewal" for the church here.
Speaking to the Irish Independent ahead of his flight to Rome yesterday, Cardinal Sean Brady said he would be one of the concelebrants at tomorrow's Mass, which is expected to see up to half-a-million people throng St Peter's Square.
The authorities in Rome are currently erecting large screens around the city to cater for the overspill, which may total as many as 1.5 million people.
"I am thrilled to be going to Rome to see the outstanding qualities of these two great popes being recognised in the most formal way by the Catholic Church," Cardinal Brady told the Irish Independent.
"I am also delighted that so many people are interested and that so many are travelling from Ireland."
Paying tribute to the two popes' "great zest for life," the Primate of All Ireland said: "In a world that is so often despairing, they are beacons of hope. They are being proposed to us as models."
He said the discussion around the canonisations meant people were asking what is a saint and what is our final destiny.
"Saints have been raised up as models to inspire us and to whom we can turn for help," he said.
Cardinal Brady said one of the things that had hastened the canonisation of John Paul II was the popular demand for it.
"Remember at the death of John Paul II (in 2005) people were calling for 'santo subito' and there was the phenomenal procession of pilgrims to his tomb in St Peter's. It was people's desire to keep alive his memory."
He said a common feature of these two popes was how they suffered and how their deaths were such public events watched by the world.
The cardinal recalled Pope John XXIII's nephew, Mgr Roncalli telling him that his uncle's concern on his deathbed was that he be able to see the figure on the crucifix on the wall opposite his bed.
"Think of John Paul II's wonderful acceptance of his suffering and his wish to continue to serve people and to bless them – his total dedication to his ministry was very inspiring."
On Monday, Cardinal Brady and Bishops Brendan Leahy and Kieran O'Reilly will concelebrate a Mass of thanksgiving for the canonisation of the two popes for Irish pilgrims at the Church of St Maria in Navicella in Rome at 4pm.