Monday, October 30, 2006

No Pope Here?

The BBC is reporting that there is some unionist opposition to the idea of Pope Benedict XVI making a pastoral visit to Northern Ireland.

Whether or not there are any plans for the Pontiff to visit the North, it is true that he was invited to visit Ireland by Archbishop Sean Brady at the culmination of the Irish Bishops' ad limina visit last Saturday when he stated that "on behalf of the priests, religious and lay faithful of Ireland we take this opportunity to invite you to come among us in the footsteps of St Patrick, and your venerable Predecessor, Pope John Paul II."

Commenting on the visit north of the border "spin" that has appeared in the local press (which sees Benedict doing a double-header with Queen Elizabeth II), East Londonderry MP, Gregory Campbell, has dismissed the notion as "bizarre".

Evidence suggests that a visit to the city of Armagh, ecclesiatical capital of the island (and located within Northern Ireland) was planned during Pope John Paul II's visit in 1979. At the last minute this had to be cancelled, due to increased tensions in Northern Ireland following the assassination of the Queen's cousin, Earl Mountbatten (along with three others) and the murders of eighteen British soldiers just outside Newry, Co. Down. Both atrocities were carried out by the Provisional IRA.

The closest John Paul came to the border was his visit to Drogheda, Co. Louth. It was here that the Pontiff made his impassioned and fruitless plea (in a speech supposedly penned by Cahal Daly, then Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise and later Bishop of Down and Connor and Archbishop of Armagh) for the IRA to end its campaign of violence.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Earlier I was reading Fr Michael Brown's new Blog, Forest Murmurs. Apart from some interesting material on his recent visit to the Eternal City, he was explaining the changes that he has made to the sanctuary of his church, St Mary's, Forest Hall.

Somewhat tongue in cheek I suggested that perhaps there is something of a contradiction between a focus on what might be described as the externals of liturgical celebration and what it must have been like at the Last Supper. Fr Michael responded that many of the key elements of our liturgy can be traced back to the early years of the Church.

I have no doubt that this is true; however I'm not sure that it answers fully the question that I was posing. The 'early years' are still later than the very beginning and neither at the Last Supper nor at Emmaus do we find ourselves distracted from the central mystery by questions of vestments, furnishings or rubrics.

I love the spectacle of Catholic liturgy, I am enthralled by it; however I cannot believe that its presence adds to nor its absence detracts from the central event of the Eucharist. Is the Mass a 'better' Mass if it is celebrated with sublime music and enriched by cloth of gold vestments? Yes, these things might help us feel that it is a 'better' Mass, but is this true? Is a Mass celebrated with none of these trappings a 'poorer' celebration? If it is, how is it?

What's it all about?

I must say that I enjoy reading most of the blogs that focus on the Catholic Church. Many I find enlightening, some I find entertaining, a few I find challenging. Occasionally I get annoyed at the sweeping generalisations I find and at times I become frustrated at the sheer inaccuracy of what is being said.

So then, I've decided to put my money where my mouth is and start a blog that will enable me to remind other members of St.Blog that sometimes there are more important things in life. No doubt there will be plenty of occasions to challenge what I post!