By Raymond Syms, Editor, who attended the WMOF in Ireland
The Holy Father will not have to travel too far for the tenth World Meeting of Families (WMOF) in 2021 as it will be held in Rome, Italy, the fifth anniversary of Amoris Laetitia.
The eagerly awaited announcement was made by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery of Laity, Family and Life, at the end of last Sunday’s Papal Mass at Phoenix Park, Dublin, Europe’s largest walled park. The Irish-American prelate took the opportunity to thank the Church in Ireland and its civil authorities for their welcome, “benevolence and cooperation” during the ninth WMOF. The Meeting’s Pastoral Congress was held August 22–24 at the Royal Dublin Society, and an entertaining Festival of Families on August 25 at Croke Park.
On a cold, overcast and windy day in Ireland’s capital, thousands walked for at least three miles to the park as many of Dublin’s streets were closed off and the usual modes of transport—tacsai (taxis), buses and the Luas (tram system) – had limited stops to the outskirts of the city.
At the park, many whipped out binoculars, folded seats and blankets to sit on the grass. Food kiosks and toilet facilities were set up along the periphery of marked sections; faithful were pre-assigned to a section via a ticketing system. Bishops, clergy and religious, and those with special needs were located closer to the erected stage. Gardaí (police) patrolled in cars and bicycles throughout.
On the arrival of the pope—his progress marked by a helicopter hovering overhead —many rushed to the marked white path where the Popemobile passed. He drove around waving to the faithful for 15–20 minutes before the liturgy began. Earlier that morning, he visited the Marian Shrine at Knock, northwest Ireland where thousands turned out in the rain.
Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar and President Michael Higgins were among those present; estimates put it at between 100 to 200, 000 depending on the source.
At the start of the liturgy the Holy Father incensed the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux, and those of her parents, Sts Louis and Zélie Martin, and the icon for the WMOF.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin welcomed the pope at the start of the Mass. He said that 39 years ago at the site (September 29, 1979) more than one million Irish Catholics attended a Papal Mass when Pope John Paul II visited, the first ever visit by a pope.
But now we are in “different Ireland” he remarked, and “the Church in Ireland has gone through challenging times. People have been wounded in the depth of their being by Church people; people’s faith has been challenged and the Church of Jesus Christ has been wounded”, a clear reference to revelations of the sexual and physical abuse cases in the Irish Church.
Archbishop Martin said the 115-ft cross erected for the 1979 Mass was never intended to be a permanent memorial and some have called for its removal. “In these years Ireland has had its winter moments but also its moments of spring. Those of us who know what an Irish winter is like—and we have had good experience of that this year—know also what happens when the first rays of spring sun emerge. Ireland changes.
“Today we gather around the same cross in the hope of a spring for the Irish Church. We look towards a spring sun that does not wish to cover up the harshness of dark days. We wish rather to help families realise anew that the future of Ireland needs the light of the message of Jesus Christ to reappear in all its simplicity and hopefulness.”