Saturday 22 September 2018

Brendan O'Connor: Did the Pope's visit signal the beginning of the end?

Was Pope Francis's visit a crossroads, or was it the beginning of the end for the Irish Catholic Church as we know it, asks Brendan O'Connor

Pope Francis greets pilgrims from the Popemobile as he makes his way around the gathering at the Phoenix Park. Picture By David Conachy.
Pope Francis greets pilgrims from the Popemobile as he makes his way around the gathering at the Phoenix Park. Picture By David Conachy.
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

Like many of you, we had the papal visit on TV in the background all weekend, dipping in and out of it when we were around. An English person in the house, with the clarity of an outsider, eventually pointed out what he found oddest about it. It was the fact that there was this kind of reverential, respectful coverage of the visit, but then, every time it cut to commentators, they had to discuss child abuse. But then, it was a weekend of contrasts and incongruity.

Even the Pope himself seemed to regret coming at times. It was pointed out more than once that he was at his happiest when he was among his people, being driven along, sometimes a bit too fast for some people's liking, through adoring crowds. He much preferred this to formal occasions apparently. But then he would, wouldn't he? Given that on formal occasions he was generally being asked some hard questions about his church, who wouldn't prefer being driven through waving admirers?

There was even a miracle at the Phoenix Park, which was that nobody from the over-exuberant crowd was run over by the Popemobile, though there was what looked like a close shave with a baby at one point.

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