The Pope in Ireland

With the visit of Pope Francis as its focus, the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) in Dublin has been a unique occasion for the Catholic world to celebrate families and their wonderfully rich and diverse contribution to society.

In his homily given at Phoenix Park before a congregation of half a million people, the Pope said that one of the fruits of the WMOF would be for participants to return home “and become a source of encouragement for others”. He called on the congregation to bear witness to the sacrificial love of Jesus, “the love that alone can save our world from its bondage to sin, selfishness, greed, and indifference to the less fortunate.” That, he said, “is the love we have come to know in Christ Jesus.”

He concluded with a challenge for the whole Church, “parents and grandparents, children and young people, men and women, religious brothers and sisters, contemplatives and missionaries, deacons and priests” to “Share the Gospel of the family as joy for the world!”

Jesuit novice Dunstan Rodrigues, who was at the Mass at Phoenix Park, commented "it was an amazing, moving and intense experience."

Pope Francis has always maintained strong links with his Jesuit family and generally includes a visit to Jesuit communities wherever he travels in the world. Dublin last weekend was no exception. During his packed 36 hours at WMOF, Pope Francis found time for an encounter with his fellow Jesuits. The Irish Jesuits were invited to meet the pope in the Papal Nunciature, Dublin. The private meeting lasted around 35 minutes. The Provincial, Leonard Moloney SJ, welcomed him in Spanish and Br George Fallon SJ greeted him in Italian and presented a small gift. Pope Francis shook hands with the men in wheelchairs individually, and then addressed the group and took some questions. 

The WMOF programme leading up to the visitation was packed with talks, discussions, and spiritual reflections. A wide range of ministries took the opportunity to showcase their work. Jesuits and those inspired by Ignatian Spirituality from all over the world were strongly present.

“I have never seen such a mix of nationalities in my life. But they are smiling and positive and upbeat,” said Vera Casey who, with Bernard McGuckian SJ and Mary Brady, had a stall to showcase the work of the Pioneer Association and Messenger Publications. Commenting on the engagement witnessed in Dublin, Bernard McGuckian SJ said “what we ask is to help your alcoholic brothers and sisters in prayer and solidarity. And this is a wonderful opportunity to let more people know about our work: if you think that, out of the 117 countries present here, the Pioneers are only in 17 of them…there is work to do! And people are very interested.”

The Beehive prayer space offered an opportunity for immersion in different ways to experience prayer and meditation.

“It is something totally Irish and of use for meditation. It is a good thing that people are aware of this” said German-Irish sculptor Imogen Stuart. Together with Jesuit author Brian Grogan SJ, they hosted an area for their purpose-built prayer garden, in the form of a carved wooden beehive, for pilgrims to enter and pray.

Fr Grogan explained “Families of up to six can fit in there. You have to see their faces once they come out: they are so grateful! That’s because it’s responding to some deep need in people to let go their anxieties and worries and just to be.”

Another special discovery for some members of the public was time spent with spiritual guides Siobhán Murphy and Iva Beranek. “A lot of people are confused and this helps them to offload that” said Siobhán. Iva, who is now completing her training as spiritual guide, shared feedback received from many: “this kind of experience can help everyone to see there is wisdom within them. And between my wisdom and your wisdom, we can find spiritual solace.”

Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ of the Raphoe Diocese spoke with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications about the impact the World Meeting of Families Pastoral Congress had on himself and his family. “I see the richness and the depth of the Church here,” he commented.

Bishop McGuckian also talked about the Pope’s visit and the shadow of the clerical sex abuse scandals cast over the event in Dublin in this podcast interview:

View more photos from Pope Francis' meeting with the Irish Jesuits: