Portlaoise priest says Pope Francis' visit was an 'injection of hope and energy'

Michelle Hogan

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Michelle Hogan

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Fr Paddy Byrne.

Over 300 people from Portlaoise parish travelled on buses to attend the Papal visit in Dublin at the weekend.

Portlaoise priest Fr Paddy Byrne attended the Papal Mass in the  Phoenix Park and the World Meeting of Families at Croke Park.

Speaking to the Leinster Express, he said there were 'lovely moments' and the communication of serious issues in the church to Pope Francis was 'to the fore'.

“I will never forget this weekend and it has given me an injection of hope and energy that will help me to become a better priest.

“To the fore of the visit was the serious nature of real issues that need to be addressed by the Church.

“I think the highlight was the event in which Pope Francis was absolutely communicated the truth by those who were hurt by the official Church in many different ways.

“I loved the gestures in the  Phoenix Park to reach out to the broken from conflicts like in  Northern Ireland.

“I liked the fact that people from the LGBT community were included at the mass and the presence of that great lady who is living with cervical cancer, her family was acknowledged.

“It was fantastic for me when Pope Francis went to Sean McDermott Street that he acknowledged Matt Talbot because addiction is a huge issue in our country,” he said.

Fr Paddy said challenges face the Catholic Church 'to sing a new song' and become more inclusive.

“We have contributions to make as priests we make them in parishes in key moments in people’s lives, we go to the hospital to visit the sick, we are chaplains in the prison, people go to us as well as we go to people and there is a relevance.

“I think we need to be more relevant, particularly in relation to the challenging needs of people, to be a voice for those who lack the opportunities that so many may take for granted.

“We need to sing a new song, that is quoting a psalm, how can we sing a new hymn?

“A hymn that is inclusive, that celebrates Jesus Christ.  Irish people are very strong in faith and we don’t measure faith by those who turn up in our pews.

“If we learn anything by the Pope’s visit it is not to abandon our hope or to dismiss the relevance of our spiritual lives,” he said.

Fr Paddy said Pope Francis is an inspirational leader.

“In the world, he is iconic in terms of he is the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics and I think as a human being he transcends the norm of what a Pope is supposed to be.

“He is a very inspirational leader to the members of the Church here in Ireland," Fr Paddy added.