Monday 24 July 2017

The 'Catholic-before-all-else' Ireland is gone - and it's the Church's own fault

'Pope Francis will meet a radically changed nation when his plane touches down in August 2018' Photo: Reuters
'Pope Francis will meet a radically changed nation when his plane touches down in August 2018' Photo: Reuters
Martina Devlin

Martina Devlin

The Irish were once defined by their Catholicism. Indeed, the Constitution opens, "In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority..." with a special constitutional position assigned to the Catholic Church.

It was a Catholic-above-all-else Ireland visited by Pope John Paul II in 1979 - a place where Church and State were conjoined at the hip. John Paul was mobbed, with nearly three million people packing a variety of locations from Limerick to Drogheda. A million people turned out for the first papal Mass on Irish soil in Dublin's Phoenix Park.

To put such attendance figures in context, the population of the Republic was 3.3 million at the time. Many crossed the Border from the North to share in the euphoria, while British Catholics also flocked to the papal gatherings.

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