Attempts to get Pope Francis to visit Co Clare are gathering momentum ahead of his planned 2018 trip to Ireland.
A request from the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference is expected to see Pope Francis come to Ireland in two years time for the World Family Meeting which takes place in Dublin. Irish Cardinal Kevin Farrell, newly appointed head of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, has confirmed that it is the Pope’s intention to make a two day trip to Ireland for the Family Meeting.
Efforts are being made to ensure the two hundred and sixty sixth Pope stops in Co Clare during this visit. Tourism promoter, Eoin O’Hagan is leading the bid to get the seventy nine year old to come to Holy Island which is off the western shore of Lough Derg.
Eoin explained to The Clare Herald how he first thought of making this happen. “Last year we heard rumours of the Pope coming to Ireland for the World Family Meeting that’s being held in Dublin in August 2018 and that coincided with me being out on Holy Island that day in Inis Cealtra and I said ‘this is a beautiful place’ and why if the Pope was coming to Ireland would he not want to come to Inis Cealtra because it has so many connections back over hundreds of years to Rome and to the Catholic Church and it has survived in a pristine condition and it’s worth a visit by the Pope”.
Since the idea first came to his mind, Eoin has spoken to and met with Bishop Fintan Monahan to discuss the matter. The Bishop of the Killaloe Diocese told him that Holy Island was a very suitable location and he would presenting it to the Pope for consideration when he meets him at the beginning of 2017.
“I had a chat with Bishop Fintan Monahan when he was in the East Clare Golf Club and I had text them before that and I got a chance to have a chat with him for five minutes and he is very positive that it’s good idea, it’s one of many ideas and every single diocese in Ireland will have their hand up looking for the Pope to visit but he said that Inis Cealtra was a willing place and that he’d be willing to present it to the Pope for consideration and to the authorities in the Vatican which he said he’s going to do in Janurary when he meets the Pope”.
O’Hagan operates clarevirtually.ie and is also a representative of East Clare on the Clare Tourism group. He feels that the region has been forgotten about and that a potential visit by Pope Francis who became the first non-European pope in 1,272 years would be a much-needed lift for the entire country.
“Whatever it would be for East Clare it would be big for the country and huge for the Mid-West of Ireland, it would put the forgotten centre of Ireland which Lough Derg has been with the promotion of the Wild Atlantic Way and the West of Ireland and West Clare especially. Ireland’s ancient east which covers the rest of Ireland the forgotten middle was the western shores of the Shannon, Lough Derg all the way up as far as Roscommon, this would be a way of highlighting the centre of Ireland that has been forgotten”.
More people would be encouraged to visit East Clare if the Pope took the first steps Eoin says. “Motorways bypass this beautiful part of the country that’s worth visiting and it has been a forgotten backwater for many years and now with the purchase of Inis Cealtra by Clare County Council it is in the shop window for tourists and if the Pope came to visit the island shur they’d all want to come then and it is a special, spiritual and spectacular place worth a visit by anybody and if the Pope came you’d never know who would want to.”
With Bishop Fintan Monahan backing the proposal it means the Diocese of Killaloe are behind Eoin in his efforts. The campaign is boosted by the support of Clare County Council who would be more than happy to welcome Pope Francis.
Gerard Dollard, Director of Services with Clare County Council told The Clare Herald “Clare County Council would be delighted to welcome His Holiness Pope Francis to County Clare if such a stop was included in his itinerary. Holy Island or indeed, the Pope’s parish of Kilfenora and other locations would be very suitable locations for any such visit.”
Taoiseach Enda Kenny is to hold a meeting with Pope Francis on Monday where it is expected that he will formally invite him to the country and assure him “that the normal state courtesies and support will be extended to him if he decides to come to Ireland.”