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Pope Francis invited to Offaly

Thursday, 23 November 2017

A FORMAL invitation is being issued to the Pope to visit Offaly next year.

Offaly County Council decided on Monday to write to the Vatican and invite Pope Francis to visit Clonmacnois as his predecessor Pope John Paul II did in 1979.

The council will include Durrow Abbey in the invitation.

The cathaoirleach of the council, Cllr Liam Quinn, said the council's corporate policy group had discussed an invitation to the Pontiff.

"I think it's only right that we mention and agree it here that a visit should go ahead," said Cllr Quinn.

Councillors agreed the invitation should be issued and Cllr Dervill Dolan, Independent, said that Durrow Abbey should be specifically mentioned in the invitation.

"I know it's not as well known as Clonmacnois either in Offaly or nationally but I think we should mention two places rather than confine ourselves to Clonmacnois," he said.

The Pope's visit to Ireland next year will coincide with the World Meeting of Families in Dublin on August 22-26.

Pope Francis is scheduled to attend the event in Croke Park on Saturday, August 25.

A visit to Armagh is expected to be on the Pope's itinerary, with Knock also a possibility.

On Sunday morning, September 30, 1979, Pope John Paul II paid a visit to Clonmacnois monastic shrine on his way to a Mass at Ballybrit racecourse, Galway.

An estimated crowd of 30,000 turned up to greet him at the site on the bank of the Shannon.

The visit was scheduled as a 20-minute stopover on the helicopter trip west but the Pope instead stayed for about 40 minutes and viewed the remains of the ancient ecclesiastical centre founded by St Ciaran.

Last September John Howard, a leading Eucharistic Adoration organiser for the diocese of Meath, told the Tribune preparations were taking place in Gardiner Street, Dublin, for a visit from the Pope.

The remains of Fr John Sullivan, the Jesuit priest beatified in May, have been in St Francis Xavier Church, Gardiner Street since their transfer from Clongowes Wood in 1960.

Fr Sullivan, who grew up as a Protestant, converted to Catholicism in 1896 and commenced his Jesuit novitiate in 1900 at St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, Rahan.

He later returned to the Jesuit house in Rahan for retreats and he died in 1933.

Pope Francis, who is also a Jesuit, declared the priest Venerable in 2014 and he was then beatified and given the title Blessed, the final step before canonisation, in May this year.

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