It's been a while since our last Papal visit...someone should warn him we've changed
Published 28/05/2016 | 02:30
Did anybody think to send Il Papa a Rulebook for the New Ireland? With Pope Francis now a likely visitor to our shores in 2018, it might be a good idea to bring him up to speed on how things have changed.
After all, it's been almost 40 years since John Paul II's visit in 1979, and we're really not the same folk we used to be, at all at all.
For starters, it might not be a good idea for him to be kissing the tarmac at Dublin Airport as there will be at least six Ryanair flights backed up on the apron packed with eager punters heading off to hen nights in Bristol, dirty weekends in Oslo and cut-price apartments in Bulgaria. And while we'll no doubt turn out in big numbers to welcome His Holiness, it's highly unlikely that the Phoenix Park will be turned into the world's biggest AirBnB a second time around.
Indeed, it's already a bit of a poser as to who we'll send to officially welcome him - Michael D to reel off a few verses of 'Ulysses' is the obvious choice, but what about Mick Wallace, who'd make a decent 13th apostle, complete with flowing locks and chest hair.
Back in 1979, we had Bishop Eamon Casey and Fr Michael Cleary belting out the 'Rivers of Babylon' at Ballybrit Racecourse, both of whom were later found to have fathered children…so maybe the safest option would be to send Mario Rosenstock and Francis Brennan to imitate each other.
We should probably alert the Pontiff about the same-sex marriage situation. If the sight of men locked in passionate embrace might be shocking to him, it's probably best we cancel the midnight tour of Temple Bar or the Panti Bliss cabaret. And divorce, which was as alien as the last secret of Fatima in the Ireland of 1979, has now become an over-the-counter transaction. Speaking of counters, we're awash with sex shops these days, with Ann Summers goodies a must at every hen or stag night across the country. We're demented with choice in the leaba these nights. It's gotten to the point where the average Saturday night shopping bag on the number 49 bus will have a bondage kit next to the Aldi apples and pesto.
So you see, your Holiness, it's another time, another place. We're also going to need a new soundtrack for this Pope's visit, a man whose Argentinian background must make him a definite runner for decent rhythms. Hozier's 'Take Me To Church' is an obvious choice, but also a highly ironic one given how empty most churches are these days. We've clearly come a long way from Dana's 'Totus Tuus', and if the Holy Father wants to get down with the kids of 2016, an iTunes prep course on Kodaline, Jape or Villagers is advised. Given that the Vatican Main Man is a techie and fond of taking selfies, he'll fit right in with the Yahoo, Apple and Microsoft community of Ireland 2016. Practically everybody has a smartphone here these days - compared to a wait of two years to get a landline installed in 1979 - and if he wants to impart any news to us from the Man Upstairs, it's best done via Skype, Viber or Snapchat.
Mind you, anytime we're perplexed about the Divine Mysteries or the Virgin Birth, we can always Google it. No doubt Pope Francis will be invited to suck the froth off a pint during his time here, like Obama and Queen Elizabeth, and he shouldn't have any trouble getting elbow space at most bars, with drink driving laws having decimated the trade. And if he has a yen for a fag, it'll be out back under a half-banjaxed heater. Irish pubs have gone all gastro these days, and it's all about pickled rainbow carrots, roasted tomatoes and slow cooked pork belly with chorizo.
For all the complexities in the Ireland of today, Pope Francis will arrive in a country at peace with itself and its neighbours. We may be in debt to Nama, obese from fizzy drinks and addicted to 'Game of Thrones', but we do still like to laugh, have the craic and build entire conversations around the minutiae of the weather.
When Pope John Paul II toured the country all those years ago, the real possibility of assassination prevented him from crossing the Border. Nowadays, there's a bus or car crossing that dividing line every minute for cheap petrol.
And if Pope Francis gets the urge to tell us: "Young people of Ireland, I love you," we will happily respond: "Right back at you, dude, with bells on."