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Monday 15 October 2018

'I'm 22 years old and not a regular at mass - but here's why I'll be up early to get tickets to see the Pope'

We're in short supply of real influencers in 2018, writes Mícheál O'Scannáil

Mícheál Ó Scannáil would like to see the Pope when he visits Ireland
Mícheál Ó Scannáil would like to see the Pope when he visits Ireland

Mícheál Ó Scannáil

The moment the release date for the Papal visit tickets was announced, I set a reminder on my phone. 'Pope tickets'.

Unlike most of the crowd who went to see Pope John Paul II in 1979, however, I won’t be going for religious reasons.

I'm 22. I haven’t been to mass since Christmas and I would consider myself only partly religious. I believe much of what is preached in the bible, but not everything.

Religion is ever-changing in Ireland and, even that I consider myself Catholic, makes me more faithful to the religion than the majority of people my age. I do look forward to hearing first-hand from the leader of my religion. I have the kind of affinity for Pope Francis that I would have for anyone who so strongly represents my beliefs. That means something to me, but not that much that it would warrant me going out of my way to see him.

The real reason I will be getting up early to get my hands on one of the 500,000 free tickets to his appearance is the interminable sense of pride and belonging that I have witnessed among those who have attended the visits of past world and religious leaders, like Pope John Paul II.

I could not tell you the innumerable times my Dad has recounted JFK’s helicopter landing in the Boggy (Kennedy Park), Cork City. Every time he beams with pride, as if he is as important to the story as the president himself.

Although his account varies depending on who is in attendance, and a touching of hands is dubious, his depiction of the historical visit is synonymous with the joyful reminiscing, exhibited by anyone I have spoken to, about Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1979.

Influential characters are in short supply in 2018.

Our influencers once spoke about freedom, equality and peace and showed us what we should aspire to be. Now they tell us their summer diet plan and show us unrealistic portrayals of what we will never become. In my lifetime, I have not had the opportunity to see someone who has touched the hearts and changed the mindset of so many as I will when the Pope visits in August.

In a time when the leader of the free world spreads messages of hate and discrimination, I won’t pass up the opportunity to see a Pope who told Juan Carlos, a gay man, “that you are gay does not matter. God made you like this and loves you like this.”

NO SURPRISES: Details of Pope Francis’s two-day visit to Ireland at the end of August will be announced tomorrow. Photo: Getty Images
NO SURPRISES: Details of Pope Francis’s two-day visit to Ireland at the end of August will be announced tomorrow. Photo: Getty Images

In years to come, I hope that I can tell my kids that I was as moved seeing the Pope as my parents were in 1979.

I hope that it brings about in me the unequivocal excitement that is evident on the faces of those who have experienced a world leader's visit and, maybe, I’ll even add a touching of hands to the tale for good measure.

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