Sunday, 25th March 2018

An Oasis of Mercy – Pastoral Letter

Posted on 04. Dec, 2015 in Diocesan and National News, Faith

Click on the link below for a copy of Archbishop Eamon Martin’s Pastoral Letter – An Oasis of Mercy (8 December 2015)

Archbishop Eamon Martin’s Pastoral Letter – 8 December 2015

Pastoral Letter for the Year of Consecrated Life

Posted on 30. Jan, 2015 in Diocesan and National News, NEWS

Pope Francis has announced that 2015 would be a year of prayer and thanksgiving for women and men who live a vocation to the religious life.

To access Archbishop Eamon Martin’s Pastoral Letter please click on the link below.

Pastoral Letter for the Year of Consecrated Life 1 February 2015


Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Posted on 15. Jan, 2014 in Diocesan and National News, NEWS

Ecumenical Walk: as in previous years, we will gather with members of the other churches to visit one another’s churches. The walk begins at 2:30pm at Derryloran Church of Ireland. All are welcome to attend.

Archbishop Charles Brown, Papal Nuncio to Ireland, will be keynote speaker at the Ecumenical Prayer Service in St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral on Wednesday 22nd January. The Prayer Service begins at 7:30pm. All are welcome to attend.


Posted on 29. Nov, 2013 in Diocesan and National News, Parish News

AL!VE, youth event

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December 7, 2013 @ 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm

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St. Brigid’s Parochial Centre
Cookstown BT80


ADYC028 3752 3084E-mail


Recently the ADYC performed a listening exercise with young people, to find out what they would like to see happening in the Archdiocese. Many young people suggested that there was a need for more social and prayer type gatherings, so the idea of AL!VE was born.

The thought process behind AL!VE is to develop youth structures within parishes. Many young people suggested that there was a need for more social and prayer type gatherings, so the idea of AL!VE was born.

Aim of AL!VE: To enthuse young people about their Catholic Faith.

Goals of AL!VE: Outreach to young people and the wider community;

Provide a fun environment for young people to come together;

To develop faith and friendships.

Details of AL!VE:

Date: Saturday, 7 December 2013

Time: 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm

Venue: St. Brigid’s Parochial Centre, Cookstown


Posted on 29. Nov, 2013 in Diocesan and National News, Parish News

An invitation to the young people (16-30) of the Archdiocese of Armagh to gather for a great youth event. There are three parts to the event:

  • Welcome, Games, Music, Meet'n'Greet
  • Youth Mass
  • Socialising: Guest Speaker & Chill Out

When? Saturday, 7th December, 5:30-9:30

Where? St. Brigid's Parochial Centre, Cookstown


The Art of Prayer and of Daily Prayer

Posted on 21. Sep, 2013 in Diocesan and National News, Faith, Parish News


10 00 AM – 9.00 PM

Admission is free.

This will include a display of Icons by the Irish Iconographers Group and the story of prayer in Irish families over the years using beads and images. At various times there will be teachings and prayer to experience. Do try to come and experience it.

Suitable for school groups as well.

See poster and timetable

One of Us Petition

Posted on 21. Sep, 2013 in Diocesan and National News, Parish News

297267-cardinal-sean-bradyPlease read the following letter from H.E. Cardinal Brady inviting us to sign the One of Us Petition.

Letter to Clergy NI – One of Us Petition

Ireland entrusted to Our Lady’s Care

Posted on 24. Aug, 2013 in Diocesan and National News, NEWS, Parish News


Coat of Arms of Archbishop Eamon Martin, Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh.

In June the Conference of Bishops decided to consecrate the entrust the Church in Ireland to the motherly care of Mary Immaculate. Cardinal Brady lead the act of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on behalf of all the Church in Ireland.

Archbishop Eamon Martin, Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh, gave the following homily at Mass that day in Knock.

Out in Italy, at the monastery of San Marco in Florence, there’s a fabulous fresco of the Annunciation scene by Fra Angelico – I have a print of it on my bedroom wall.  It is very striking. The angel is standing before Mary, and both of them appear to be in deep thought. I imagine it is that moment just after the angel has told Mary: ‘you are to conceive and bear a Son, and you must name him Jesus’.  It’s like a meditation. Their heads are bowed, their hands overlapped in silent prayer. The enormity of what is happening is sinking in.

In the 12th century Saint Bernard of Clairvaux wrote a beautiful reflection on that moment. He imagines the whole world gathered outside the room, looking in and awaiting Mary’s reply to the angel. They’re urging her to say ‘yes’ to God’s invitation. ‘You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son… The angel is waiting for your answer… it’s time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, …. the whole earth waits, prostrate at your feet…Answer the angel quickly, O Virgin’.

And then, Mary lifts up her head; perhaps she smiles as she says her ‘Yes’! ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word’. By saying ‘yes’, Mary gave God the greatest gift that humanity could ever have given Him – the gift of motherly love.

Mary’s ‘yes’ invites us to reflect on our response to God’s call. It’s not easy nowadays to do God’s will.There are so many other attractions out there competing for our attention. Still, we are invited, in complete freedom, to say ‘yes’ to God as Mary did, over and over again. After the angel left her, Mary abandoned herself more and more to God’s will: as she visited Elizabeth, when she gave birth in a stable, at the Presentation of her child in the Temple, as she watched Him grow in knowledge and wisdom, when she listened to His public teaching and marvelled at His miracles and healing, as she watched Him gradually walking into danger. It is all there in the mysteries of the Rosary – the beads mark out Mary’s ‘yes’ after ‘yes’ after ‘yes’ to God.

Luke tells us that Mary carefully kept all things in her heart.  So, as we pray the Rosary, we can unite ourselves with her Immaculate Heart and enter with her into the great mysteries of our salvation. Blessed John Paul II encouraged us to see Mary as a ‘model of contemplation’ and to gaze on Jesus with Mary’s eyes, with the eyes of her heart!  I like to reflect at each mystery of the Rosary on what Mary might have been pondering in her heart at that particular moment – for example at the moment of the Annunciation, or the Visitation, at the Carrying of the Cross, or the Crucifixion, at the Resurrection and Ascension, at his Baptism in the Jordan, or at the wedding in Cana … during each decade I think of how Mary kept renewing the ‘yes’ to God which she first gave as a young girl in Nazareth.

Of course what sustained Mary’s continual ‘yes’ was her Immaculate Heart, overflowing with profound love for Jesus. No wonder Mary’s Immaculate Heart has been described as the ‘school of love’! Could there ever be a better teacher than Mary, to show us how to love God and say ‘yes’ to God in our lives? I wonder was it Mary who taught Saint John the beautiful words which he wrote in his first letter – ‘God is love, and he who lives in love, lives in God, and God lives in him’? Mary lived a vocation of love; she lived in God, and God lived in her!

On this day, 25 years ago, Blessed John Paul II issued an encyclical about the dignity and vocation of women.  In it, he described how women are living witnesses of the ‘vocation to love’.  Women especially, he said, can teach us how to say ‘yes’ to God who is love.  Today in Knock as we consecrate Ireland to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I want to pay tribute to the women of Ireland who witness to love so strongly and so unselfishly.  Let us give thanks for the mothers and grandmothers, the sisters and wives, the consecrated women, the married and single women who have built a ‘civilisation of love’ here in Ireland.  They have been outstanding in their commitment to family and to faith and in the example they give of how to be understanding, forgiving, merciful, humble and caring.  The women of Ireland have played the central role in handing on the faith in this country.  They have been our chief evangelists, the educators and stalwarts of the faith.  Thinking of my own mother, I venture to say that the women of Ireland are the best ‘pray-ers’ too!  In many ways their witness to selfless love teaches us men how to be better fathers, brothers, grandfathers, husbands, single men, priests and bishops.  I thank God especially today for the ‘yes’ that women give to unborn children.  Like Mary, they become partners in God’s creation.  They unselfishly say ‘yes’ to new life despite all the tiredness and discomfort of pregnancy, the soreness and nausea, the worries and disruption it can bring.

Mary’s last recorded words in the scriptures are ‘Do whatever he tells you’. Do not be surprised, then, at the beginning of this Novena in Knock, if you hear God calling you today to do something significant and special for Him – something that will make a real difference to your life and in the lives of others.  You will know God’s call when you hear it, because it will be definite and challenging.  Do not be afraid!  If you can answer, as Mary did, ‘I am your servant Lord, let it be done to me according to your will’, then God will give you all the grace you need to transform the world from within.

‘To transform the world from within’: that’s what Blessed Pope John Paul II asked of the Ireland’s lay faithful back in 1979.  Today, Ireland is perhaps more than ever in need of transformation.  This dear country of ours, which has proudly sent countless missionaries all around the world to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, is itself ready for ‘new evangelisation’.  Sadly, many of our people are losing touch with Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and they are missing out on the joy and the hope that believing in Jesus can bring.  Our mission, as true disciples of Christ, is to transform Ireland from within.  We do this by gently inviting our brothers and sisters to a new friendship with Jesus, and by convincing them, as Pope Benedict put it, that when you let Christ into your life, you ‘lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great’!

Two weeks ago at Brazil’s National Shrine of Our Lady at Aparacida, Pope Francis said, ‘when the Church looks for Jesus, she always knocks at his Mother’s door and asks: “Show us Jesus”.  It is from Mary that the Church learns true discipleship.  That is why the Church always goes out on mission in the footsteps of Mary’.  That is also why, to mark this Year of Faith, the Bishops of Ireland decided together in June to consecrate Ireland to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Many of you had been encouraging us to do so.  Thank you for that encouragement!  And what better place to perform this solemn Act than here in Knock, Ireland’s National Shrine to Our Lady!  After all it was here, back in 1979, that Blessed Pope John Paul II last entrusted and consecrated the people of Ireland to Mary, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church.

To Jesus, through Mary!  Those were the words which St Louis Grignon de Montfort used when he promoted consecration to Mary’s Immaculate Heart.  Today, inspired by those words, we entrust ourselves completely to Mary and implore her intercession to help us keep our baptismal commitments and live as her children.  Led by our cardinals, bishops and priests, in consecrating ourselves, our families, homes, dioceses and Ireland our country to Jesus through Mary’s Immaculate Heart, we are placing ourselves under her protection and asking for her maternal blessing.  Of course a consecration such as this is not something simply done to us, or for us, which asks nothing of us in return.  If we travel home from Knock today without a renewed commitment to God’s will in our own lives, then how can we expect this solemn and beautiful Act to make any difference at all?  This entrustment asks for our ‘yes’ to God.  It invites a continual conversion and giving of ourselves, an ongoing ‘yes’ to the values of the Gospel.  It calls on us to say ‘yes’ again and again to our faith, to family, to respect for life, to charity, to forgiveness, to reconciliation.  It calls on each one of us to live out our baptismal commitment so that everyone we meet, especially those who seem furthest away or most indifferent, can feel touched by the mercy and love of God.

As we go out together in the footsteps of Mary, on this mission to announce the Gospel of the Lord, I encourage you to nourish your entrustment, your ‘yes’ to God, by praying the Rosary every day and regularly spending time before the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.  There, bead by bead, mystery by mystery, contemplate Jesus with Mary.  Gaze on Him with the eyes of her heart!

To end, I’ll borrow Pope Francis’ prayer from Aparacida. ‘Dear friends, we have come to knock at the door of Mary’s house.  She has opened it for us, she has let us in and she shows us her Son.  Now she asks us to “do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5).  Yes, dear Mother, we are committed to doing whatever Jesus tells us! And we will do it with hope, trusting in God’s surprises and full of joy’.

A Mhuire na nGrás, a Mháthair Mhic Dé, go gcuiridh tú ar mo leas mé.


— — —

Prayer for the Act of Consecration of Ireland to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Refuge of Sinners, we entrust and consecrate ourselves, our family, our home, our Dioceses and Ireland our country to Jesus through your Immaculate Heart.  As your children, we promise to follow your example in our lives by doing at all times the will of God.

O Mary, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, we renew today the promises of our Baptism and Confirmation.  Intercede for us with the Holy Spirit that we may be always faithful to your Divine Son, to his Mystical Body, the Catholic Church, and to the teachings of his Vicar on earth, our Holy Father the Pope.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, our Queen and our Mother, we promise to uphold the sanctity of marriage and the welfare of the family.  Watch over our minds and hearts and preserve our young people from dangers to their faith and the many temptations that threaten them in the world today.

We ask you, Mary our Advocate to intercede with your divine Son.  Obtain for our country the grace to uphold the uniqueness of every human life, from the first moment of conception to natural death.

O Blessed Mother, Our Life, Our Sweetness and Our Hope, we wish that this Consecration be for the greater glory of God and that it lead us safely to Jesus your Son.

A Naomh-Mhuire, a Mháthair Dé, guigh orainn na peacaigh, anois agus ar uair ár mbáis.


Archbishop Eamon – Choose Life

Posted on 06. Jul, 2013 in Diocesan and National News, Featured, Parish News


Please watch this important choose life message from Archbishop Eamon Martin, Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh

Pope Francis’ First Encyclical Letter

Posted on 06. Jul, 2013 in Diocesan and National News, Faith, Featured, Parish News

Pope Francis’ first encyclical entitled “Lumen fidei” or “The Light of Faith” was released Friday at a press conference in the Vatican. The document completes the trilogy of papal lumen-Fidei-web-imageteachings on the three theological virtues, begun by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who issued his encyclicals “Deus Caritas Est” on Charity in 2005 and “Spe Salvi” on Hope in 2007.

Download here the complete enclyclical

A time to uphold the right to life

Posted on 13. Jun, 2013 in Diocesan and National News, Parish News

On the second day of the June General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Maynooth, the following statement has been issued:

A time to reflect

On Saturday last, tens of thousands of women, men and children gathered in Dublin to express their support for the equal right to life of mothers and their unborn children.

We are at a defining moment for our country.

The Gospel of life is at the heart of the message of Jesus. He came that we may have life and have it to the full (Jn 10:10). The Gospel challenges us to work for a world in which the dignity and beauty of every human life are respected.

A time to uphold the right to life

The right to life is the most fundamental of all rights; it is the foundation of all other rights. No individual has the right to destroy life and no State has the right to undermine the right to life.

Yet the Irish Government is proposing abortion legislation that will fundamentally change the culture of medical practice in Ireland. For the first time legislation will be enacted permitting the deliberate and intentional killing of an unborn child. This represents a radical change. Every citizen, not just people of faith, should be deeply concerned.

We value the skill and efforts of our doctors, nurses and other care professionals who have helped to earn Ireland’s place as one of the safest countries in the world for mothers and their babies during pregnancy.

Catholic Church teaching is clear: where a seriously ill pregnant woman needs medical treatment which may put the life of her baby at risk, such treatments are ethically permissible provided every effort is made to save both the mother and her baby.

This is different from abortion, which is the direct and intentional taking of the innocent life of the unborn. No matter what legislation is passed in any country, abortion is, and always will be, gravely wrong.

A time for clarity and truth

The Government is under no obligation to legislate for the X case. People are being misled. We challenge repeated statements that this legislation is about saving lives and involves no change to the law or practice on abortion. Legalising the direct and intentional destruction of the life of an unborn baby can never be described as ‘life-saving’ or ‘pro-life’.

Contrary to clear psychiatric evidence, this legislation proposes abortion as an appropriate response to women with suicidal feelings during pregnancy. It is even possible to envisage as a result of this legislation the deliberate destruction of a child, who could otherwise be saved, right up to and including the moment of birth.

Furthermore, we challenge assurances that the proposed legislation will provide limited access to abortion. As published to date, the legislation will allow for a very wide margin of subjective professional assessment by which the deliberate destruction of an unborn baby can be legally justified. As we have learned from other countries, such legislation opens the door to ever wider availability of abortion.

We remain convinced that enhanced medical guidelines, which do not envisage the direct and intentional killing of the unborn, could provide the necessary clarity as well as a morally, legally and medically acceptable way forward. While good health can normally be restored, life, once taken, can never, never be restored.

A time for freedom of conscience

Freedom of conscience is a fundamental human right. A State that truly cherishes freedom will respect the conscience of its citizens, including its public representatives, on such an important human value as the right to life.

It is ethically unacceptable to expect doctors, nurses and others who have conscientious objections to nominate others to take their place. Neither should any institution with a pro-life ethos be forced to provide abortion services.

A time to decide: a time to act; a time to pray

We call on citizens to exercise their right to make their views known respectfully to our public representatives and to leave them in no doubt about where they stand on this issue.

We ask our public representatives to uphold the equal and inviolable right to life of all human beings, even if this means standing above other pressures and party loyalties.

We also invite our priests and people to continue to pray the Choose Life prayer at Mass and in the home that the dignity and value of all human life will continue to be upheld in this country.

Some mothers today are facing difficult or crisis pregnancies. Other people who have had, or who have assisted with abortions, may be re-living what happened in the past. They deserve to receive all the love, support and professional care that they need.

As Bishops we will join this weekend in prayerful solidarity with millions of Catholics all over the world in the Year of Faith celebration of Blessed John Paul II’s Encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life).

Every human life is precious, every human life is beautiful, every human life is sacred. Choose life!


For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444

Prayer for the Child in the Womb

Posted on 13. Jun, 2013 in Diocesan and National News, Parish News

Prayer for the child in the womb

Lord Jesus, you are the source and lover of life.F. 1. Love Them Both. An Irish Pro Life Campaign Poster

Reawaken in us respect for every human life. Help us to see in each child the marvellous work of our Creator. Open our hearts to welcome every child as a unique and wonderful gift.

Guide the work of doctors, nurses and midwives. May the life of a mother and her baby in the womb be equally cherished and respected.

Help those who make our laws to uphold the uniqueness and sacredness of every human life, from the first moment of conception to natural death. Give us wisdom and generosity to build a society that cares for all.

Together with Mary, your Mother, in whose womb you took on our human nature, Help us to choose life in every decision we take.

We ask this in the joyful hope of eternal life with you, and in the communion of the Blessed Trinity. Amen.

Our Lady of Knock, pray for us.

All the Saints of Ireland, pray for us.



Safeguarding Annual Report 2012.

Posted on 04. May, 2013 in Diocesan and National News, Parish News

This report will inform you of the developments within Safeguarding in our Archdiocese over this past year, January – December 2012. You can read it or download it for later reading by clicking on this link: Annual Report 2012.


Choose Life: Ireland faces a defining moment

Posted on 27. Apr, 2013 in Diocesan and National News, Parish News

Special Day of Prayer for Unborn Life at Our Lady’s Shrine, Knock


Saturday, 4 May 2013 is designated as a national Day of prayer for Life ‘from womb to tomb’ in the Basilica at Our Lady’s Shrine, Knock. People from every parish in Ireland are invited to come to Knock for this day which will focus on prayer and liturgy for the intention of protecting Unborn Life.

Choose Life: Ireland faces a defining moment

The decision by the present Irish Government to legislate for abortion means that Irish law will permit the direct and intentional killing of innocent unborn babies. Doctors in Ireland have confirmed that mothers already receive any life-saving treatments they need during pregnancy – and that this is achieved without directly targeting the life of the baby.

The Choose Life: We Cherish them Both, Vigil of Prayer for the Right to Life of Mothers and their Unborn Babies, is an opportunity for all people of faith and goodwill to join in prayer for mothers and unborn babies, that they will continue to be protected, cherished, and safeguarded from all harm.

Please be part of this special day and invite as many of your family, friends and loved ones as you can.

In the words of Pope Francis, before he became Pope:

“Caring for life from the beginning to the end. What a simple thing, what a beautiful thing. So, go forth and don’t be discouraged. Care for life. It’s worth it!”

Mass in honour of Saint Raymond Nonnatus, Patron Saint of Expectant Mothers, Argentina (31 August 2005)

National Prayer Vigil in Knock on Saturday 4th May 2013

The programme for the National Prayer Vigil for the right to life of Mothers and Babies is as follows:

1.00pm: Rosary Procession
With scripture reflections and personal testimonies

2.00pm: Short Presentation
Protecting the Equal Right to Life of Mothers and Unborn Children in Ireland today.

3.00pm: Holy Mass
Celebrant – Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland
Homilist: Most Reverend Brendan Leahy, Bishop of Limerick

Arranging transport to Knock

For assistance in arranging transport for a group or parish please contact:

ROI/NI (00 353 1) 505 3060

Click here to download a pdf of the information flyer for the vigil.


Vocation Sunday

Posted on 20. Apr, 2013 in Diocesan and National News, NEWS, Parish News

634888-pope-benedict-brazil-360x202Sunday 21 April is the 50th World Day of Prayer for Vocations. It was instituted by Paul VI  during the Second Vatican Council. At the time he said, 

“The problem of having a sufficient number of priests has an immediate impact on all of the faithful: not simply because they depend on it for the religious future of Christian society, but also because this problem is the precise and inescapable indicator of the vitality of faith and love of individual parish and diocesan communities, and the evidence of the moral health of Christian families. Wherever numerous vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life are to be found, that is where people are living the Gospel with generosity”.

Pope John Paul II

“His calling is a declaration of love.”  Your response is commitment, friendship, and love manifested in the gift of your own life as a definitive following and as a permanent sharing in his mission and in his consecrations.  To make up your mind is to love him with all of your soul and all of your heart in such a way that this love becomes the standard and motive of all your actions.  From this moment on, live the Eucharist fully; be persons for whom the Holy Mass, Communion, and Eucharistic adoration are the center and summit of their whole life.  Offer Christ your heart in meditation and personal prayer which is the foundation of the spiritual life.”
(Valencia, Spain, November 8, 1982)”



Conclave 101

Posted on 28. Feb, 2013 in Diocesan and National News, NEWS

papal20conclave-005A quick course in ‘Conclave 101’ By John Allen – National Catholic Reporter


People typically ask two kinds of questions about conclaves: those that deal with the event in general and those that pertain to this one specifically — who the leading candidates are, what the issues seem to be, and so on. We’ll deal with the latter soon enough, but first, it’s important to grasp how the behind-the-scenes politics work.

Ideally, this exercise in “Conclave 101″will help make sense of what we’ll be seeing and hearing between now and that magic moment when white smoke rises from a small chimney above the Sistine Chapel, proclaiming to the world that a new pope has been elected.

(That’s probably a first insight worth offering: The white smoke isn’t always so white. A chemical mix is used to make burned ballots either turn black, signifying an inconclusive vote, or white, meaning that we have a pope. In reality, the result is often an indistinct gray. In 2005, the Vatican said bells would also ring when a pope had been elected, but bells ring in Rome all the time, so that doesn’t always add much clarity. Generally, it takes a few minutes to sort out what’s actually happened.)

Before we begin, let me say a word about the traditional Catholic conviction that a conclave unfolds under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In 2005, this idea was summed up by Cardinal Ennio Antonelli of Florence, who said God already knew who the new pope was, so it was simply up to the cardinals to figure out what God had already decided.

Some pious souls take that to mean that it’s inappropriate, even borderline heretical, to suggest that politics are involved. Yet Catholic theology also holds that “grace builds on nature,” meaning that the spiritual dimension of a papal election doesn’t make it any less political.

Anyway, one shouldn’t exaggerate the role of divine inspiration. As one cardinal put it to me after the election of Benedict XVI, “I was never whapped on the head by the Holy Spirit. I had to make the best choice I could based on the information available.”

Perhaps the classic expression of this idea belongs to none other than the outgoing pope, Benedict XVI, who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was asked on Bavarian television in 1997 if the Holy Spirit is responsible for who gets elected. This was his response:

I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the Pope. … I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit’s role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined.

Then the clincher:

There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit obviously would not have picked!

‘You’d be bored to tears’

Famously, the term “conclave” comes from two Latin words meaning “with a key,” referring to the fact that once the cardinals process into the Sistine Chapel and the phrase extra omnes has been intoned by the master of ceremonies, meaning “everybody out,” the doors are locked and the voting begins.

In their mind’s eye, people often picture a highly charged political atmosphere behind those locked doors, with caucuses of cardinals hurriedly whispering in corners, desperately attempting to mobilize support for or against certain candidates. I had this image myself once upon a time, envisioning cigars being chomped and horses being traded. Then I interviewed Cardinal Franz König in Vienna in 2002, two years before his death. König had been part of the conclave of 1963 and the two of 1978, and I asked him about the “electricity” I imagined must be palpable inside the Sistine Chapel.

“Actually, if you could watch what happens inside, you’d be bored to tears,” König laughed.

In truth, what goes on is more akin to a liturgy than a political convention. In each round of balloting, every one of the cardinals eligible to vote (117 this time) has to process to the altar beneath Michelangelo’s fresco of the Last Judgment and place his ballot on a paten, then deposit it in a chalice (though last time, the Vatican used a specially designed urn). They vow they have voted for the candidate whom before God they believe should be elected, then return to their seats. The counting is an elaborate process involving three cardinals, and their work has to be checked by another three cardinals to ensure it’s accurate. All told, one round of balloting can take an hour or more to complete, so that two ballots are, in effect, a morning’s or afternoon’s work.

That’s the reality inside the Sistine Chapel: There are long stretches of time spent in silence and in prayer, with no floor speeches, no dramatic moments when a kingmaker pops up and swings his support to another candidate, no concessions and no victory laps.

Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore explained what some cardinals do to fill the time in an interview following the election of Benedict XVI: “One cardinal told me [that] while he was listening to the votes being counted, he said three rosaries,” Keeler said. “And another said, ‘Well, I said two,’ and so, a third said, ‘Well, I prayed mine with greater piety, and it was just one.’ ”

As a result, the politics don’t really unfold inside the conclave itself. They start well before the conclave begins — in fact, they’re going on right now. Things will really heat up beginning March 1 as cardinals converge on Rome and begin the consultations, both formal and informal, that will shape the balloting set to begin somewhere between March 15 and March 20.

So, where is the action? Four venues are especially crucial.

1. The General Congregations

One critically important arena to win friends and influence people is the General Congregation meetings that take place among all the cardinals (including not just the electors but those over 80, too), with the first one usually coming a day or so after the beginning of the sede vacante, or interregnum. Last time there were 13 General Congregation meetings before the conclave, held in the Vatican’s Synod Hall.

In part, these meetings are devoted to a line-by-line examination of the conclave rules in excruciating detail, but they also provide a forum for a more wide-open discussion of the issues facing the church.

Some cardinals came out of these meetings last time grumbling that the atmosphere was too much like a Synod of Bishops, with long-winded speeches and little opportunity for real interaction. Several mentioned it was especially difficult to keep the over-80 cardinals, of whom there were between 50 and 60 in the room, to stick to the seven-minute time limit. (Nobody really wants to be the one to tell an admired 92-year-prelate to sit down and shut up.)

Nonetheless, most participants also acknowledged that the way then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger chaired these sessions in his role as dean of the College of Cardinals was crucial in paving the way for his election as Benedict XVI. Ratzinger, the cardinals said later, knew everyone, spoke to them in their own language, and treated their opinions with respect. In general, his performance helped solidify impressions among many cardinals that his media profile as “God’s Rottweiler” was more myth than reality.

This time around, the dean is Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who’s already over 80 and won’t be in the conclave, so the General Congregations offer a chance for someone else to steal the show. If you hear cardinals talking about an especially impressive speech someone gave or the way a particular cardinal seemed able to broker consensus, that’s something well worth flagging.

2. The media

In 2005, the cardinals used one of those General Congregation meetings to agree among themselves not to talk to the press from April 8, the date of John Paul II’s funeral Mass, through April 18, the opening day of the conclave. It was reported at the time that a formal ban had been imposed, but the Vatican stressed this was “an invitation, not a prohibition.” (In fact, Ratzinger apparently said during the General Congregation that it is a “human right” of cardinals to speak to anyone they chose.)

It’s not yet clear if there will be a similar gentlemen’s agreement this time, but in any event, it’s not yet in force, and plenty of cardinals have been talking in general terms about the challenges facing the church and the kind of man who may be needed to face them. Other cardinals are reading these interviews, and collectively they help shape the psychology of the voters.

On Thursday, for instance, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of the United States said in an interview with NCR that he believes the church is ready for a Third World pope. (McCarrick is already over 80, but he’ll be part of the pre-conclave discussions.) Italian Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo told a reporter he wouldn’t vote for a career diplomat like himself because the church needs “a pastor of souls.”

In an interview with a German paper, Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne, Germany, sketched a picture of a pope who would be a mix of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, blending John Paul’s popular touch and Benedict’s culture. Meisner also added the revelation that in 2009, a group of cardinals tried to get Benedict to dump his Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, over perceptions of incompetence — probably not a big help to Bertone’s electoral chances.

The media also play a role by the way various cardinals are depicted, including rumors that sometimes seem strategically calculated to either enhance or retard a particular candidate’s chances. Sometimes, in other words, papal politics turn nasty.

In April 2005, various attempts to sabotage candidates wafted through the Roman air:

The Italian media reported rumors that Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice had been treated for depression, suggesting a sort of psychological instability that might disqualify him for the church’s highest office. (That bit of character assassination may make the rounds again this time, since Scola is once again considered a serious runner.)
Reports that Cardinal Ivan Dias of Mumbai has diabetes, a sign of ill health. In addition, an email campaign allegedly initiated by members of his own flock in India made the rounds, including complaints of an “unapproachable, stubborn and arrogant style.”
Reports about a book in Argentina, given wide attention in the Spanish-language media, alleging that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio had been unacceptably close to the military junta in the 1970s, even that he was complicit in the persecution of two liberal Argentinian Jesuits, something his defenders stoutly denied. Another email campaign, this one claiming to originate with fellow Jesuits who knew Bergoglio back when he was the provincial of the order in Argentina, claimed “he never smiled.”
Reports surfaced alleging that both Ratzinger and Sodano, considered by some to be leading candidates, were in poor health, raising questions about their physical capacity to be pope.

No one really had the time to trace down all these rumors, and in a sense, that was the point. The hope was that the mere fact that negative things were being said would be enough to derail a particular candidacy. In that sense, a conclave is more analogous to British rather than American politics — the race lasts only a couple of weeks instead of years. In the American cycle, there’s time to sort out whether rumors about George W. Bush’s National Guard service or Barack Obama’s birth certificate are authentic or not; in the frenzy of an abbreviated papal campaign, there’s just no time to do that kind of legwork.

It should be emphasized that these smear campaigns almost always originate outside the College of Cardinals and that there is generally a very genteel, respectful tone to the discussions among the cardinals themselves.

A safe rule of thumb about such reports is to assume they’re false until proof to the contrary emerges, though that’s not always easy in the hothouse atmosphere of the pre-conclave period. People launch these rumors for the same reason secular political advisers craft attack ads — because like it or not, sometimes negative campaigning works.

3. Apartments, colleges and lounges

Cardinals do not rely exclusively on impressions formed during the General Congregation meetings or from the press to shape their attitudes. Informal meetings also take place around the edges, among cardinals who have been friends over long stretches of time or who share a similar sense of where the church ought to go or who speak the same language (in this case, literally rather than metaphorically; that is, English-speakers often come together with one another, Spanish-speakers meet among themselves, and so on).

Unlike previous conclaves, in 2005 these sessions took place almost entirely in discreet locations, such as the private apartments of curial members, the national colleges where many cardinals were staying prior to moving into the Casa Santa Marta on Vatican grounds, and in the lounges of various ecclesiastical facilities around town. In part because of a desire to shun publicity, cardinals largely stayed away from their favorite Roman restaurants. (For some, this was probably the biggest sacrifice of the interregnum.)

In the initial stages, the most important gatherings tended to take place by language group. One such get-together in April 2005, for example, took place at the end of the first week of the interregnum at the Venerable English College on Via Monserrato, just off Rome’s Piazza Farnese, home to seminarians from Great Britain as well as handful of other clergy connected in one way or another to the United Kingdom.

The session was hosted by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, at the time still archbishop of Westminster, who emerged as a key point of reference for the English-speaking cardinals in the run-up to the conclave. In such environments, away from prying eyes and ears, cardinals were able to chat freely about various candidates and to get a sense of what other cardinals were thinking.

As one cardinal put it, “Some were rather uncomfortable with the free-flowing nature of these conversations, but that’s what you have to do if you’re going to get anywhere.”

4. The Casa Santa Marta

In the old days, cardinals actually slept inside the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace during the days of the conclave, sometimes on cots in spots normally used as offices or storerooms, in order to insulate them from the outside world. It wasn’t always pleasant; König described the indignity of forcing elderly men to make their way in the dark down confusing corridors in search of a bathroom, saying that sometimes you could actually hear their groans echo.

John Paul II changed all that by decreeing that the cardinals would instead stay in the Casa Santa Marta, the $20 million hotel on Vatican grounds ordinarily used to house various visitors who have business in the Holy See. Located near the Paul VI audience hall, across from the entrance to the excavations underneath St. Peter’s Basilica, the facility features 108 guest suites, each with a living room and a bedroom, and 23 single rooms, all with private baths. It also has a chapel, a modern wood-and-glass design with enough room for a little more than 100 people, just enough to accommodate all the cardinals.

Last time, some cardinals walked back and forth from the Casa Santa Marta to the Sistine Chapel while others took minivans made available to them. Either way, Vatican security forces are supposed to ensure no one approaches the cardinals in order to short-circuit any effort to influence their votes. Although the Santa Marta has Wi-Fi and all the other modern conveniences, cardinals are not permitted to use any means of communication with the outside world.

In 2005, the cardinals decided to move into the Santa Marta early. They gathered on Sunday night ahead of the opening of the conclave the next morning. Several cardinals said they felt the need for a “jump start” since the behind-the-scenes conversations up to that point had been scattered and not everyone had been involved. After the fact, several cardinals said that brief period in the Santa Marta before things got started played an important role in allowing the pro-Ratzinger coalition to set the tone for the conclave.

By all accounts, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna was among the “king-makers.”

“When you talked to other cardinals about Ratzinger, most of them would say, yes, he’s a good candidate, but there’s also this man or that man,” one cardinal recalled. “Not Schönborn. For him, it was God’s will that Ratzinger be pope, and that was it.”

Privately, some cardinals are already saying they should head into the Santa Marta even earlier this time, in order to give the group a better chance to get organized. That may have some traction, given that there are plenty of voters whose memories of 2005 are still fresh. Last time, there were only two cardinals inside the conclave who had ever been through the experience before: Ratzinger and American Cardinal William Baum. This time, 50 of the 117 electors are conclave veterans.

(Actually, there are 51 veterans. Although Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., was only made a cardinal in 2010, he was inside the 1978 conclave that elected John Paul II. Wuerl was then a personal secretary to Cardinal John Wright, who had been in the United States recovering from leg surgery when John Paul I was elected, but made it back for the second conclave that year in a wheelchair. Wuerl was allowed in as his attendant. I’m indebted to my colleague Jerry Filteau for recalling this bit of trivia.)

Once the conclave begins, the Santa Marta becomes even more important because it’s the only place they can have extended conversations with one another outside the quasi-liturgical rhythms of the Sistine Chapel. Cardinals gather over breakfast, lunch and dinner for as long as the conclave wears on, making the Santa Marta the critical venue in which potential gridlocks are addressed and a final consensus begins to emerge.

[John L. Allen Jr. is NCR senior correspondent. His email address is]

Lenten Practices

Posted on 14. Feb, 2013 in Diocesan and National News, Parish News


World Day for Consecrated Life

Posted on 01. Feb, 2013 in Diocesan and National News, Parish News

logoOn Sunday 3rd February we will rejoice and celebrate World Day for Consecrated Life.  The celebration of World Day for Consecrated Life invites all the Church to reflect on the role of Consecrated Life within the Christian community. Some Christian women and men respond to God’s call to become followers of Jesus through profession of vows and a life dedicated to prayer and service. They live out the consecrated life in different ways; religious sisters, nuns, brothers, religious priests, and monks consecrate their lives through their profession of vows and live as part of a community. Other forms of consecrated life include secular institutes and single lay people who choose to take vows with the approval of the local Bishop.

Those who become followers of Jesus through the Consecrated Life bless the Church.

We ask God to bless our Church with others who will dedicate their lives to God’s service.

For more information on the vocation to consecrated life in Ireland today, check out

Are you searching for a way to offer yourself to the service of God’s world?  Explore God’s call for you at

Choose Life – It’s Beautiful

Posted on 17. Jan, 2013 in Diocesan and National News, Parish News

On Saturday 19th of January Pro-Life groups from around Ireland will gather in Merrion Square West in Dublin for a Pro-Life Vigil. The vigil begins at 4:30pm. For further information click on the link: CHOOSE LIFE.


Cardinal Brady’s Message for Christmas

Posted on 01. Jan, 2013 in Diocesan and National News, Parish News

Message by Cardinal Seán Brady

Monday, December 31st, 2012

  • My hope is that the year ahead will see the relationship between faith and public life in our country move beyond the sometimes negative, exaggerated caricatures of the past
  • One of the fundamental rights issues of our time is the right of children and families not to have to live in poverty. I believe this failure to prioritise the elimination of child and family poverty in the reform of the tax and welfare system, in any jurisdiction, is unworthy of a society which claims to have a paramount concern for children
  • I hope that everyone who believes that the right to life is fundamental will make their voice heard in a reasonable, but forthright, way to their representatives, reminding them that the right to life is conferred on human beings not by the powerful ones of this world but by the Creator

A few days ago, the seasons turned. The long nights of winter began their slow retreat before the new life of spring. Here in Ireland, hundreds gathered, as they do every year, at Newgrange, County Meath. We wonder at the genius and spiritual sophistication of our Irish ancestors in capturing this transition from darkness to light with such precision and mystical splendour. We reflect with a great sense of responsibility on the respect for the spiritual and transcendent that has been an unbroken part of our Irish heritage for over five thousand years, long before the first pages of the Old Testament were written.

Since that time, the Face of God has been progressively revealed to us. The Creator whom our ancestors encountered in the wonder and patterns of nature has come to us in the wonder of a child. In a child who delights us with his innocence in the Manger at Bethlehem, the face of God shines out in all its splendour. It is the face of a God who is utterly committed to each of us and to the peace and well-being of the human family. It is the face of perfect love.

The birth of Jesus is the defining moment of human history. It sets love before us as the only certain path to human progress. This is the child who will lead us in the‘ways of peace’ by his example of perfect love. It is a love that heals and gives life wherever it is received with an open heart. His birth is that moment in which the tides of darkness begin their retreat and the irreversible progress of life, love and goodwill towards all is assured.

When we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate the birth of the Son of God. In the child Jesus, God reveals how much He loves each and every one of us. At Christmas we rejoice, first and foremost, because of the magnificent present which God has given each of us – the gift of His Son – our Saviour and the Saviour of the world. Because of that first present we give Christmas presents to each other to celebrate God’s love for us and our love for each other. But who do we really believe this child, born in Bethlehem, to be? So much depends on the answer to this question. Do we really believe that the Son of God came:

  • To release us from the captivity of selfishness;
  • To open our eyes to the greatness of God’s love and,
  • To set us free from the oppression of hatred and fear?
  • Do we really believe He came:
  • To invite us into a personal relationship of friendship with Himself.
  • To invite us all to follow His example.
  • To call us to live like Him and, in our turn, reveal His healing love to the world?

I appeal to all those who go to Church or visit a crib this year, to reflect deeply on why you are a follower of Christ. I ask you to consider what God may be offering you in terms of personal friendship in prayer and active involvement in the Church. The Year of Faith challenges us all to discover what our Church believes and why.

The real joy of Christmas is the joy of faith. It is the joy of knowing that God is present in us and in our world – a loving God – a healing God – a forgiving God. The real gift of Christmas is to meet and know this loving Saviour who wants to come, through faith, into our hearts now– today.

The future direction of the world will be determined by what His life and message means for the values by which we live our lives and organise society. The message of life and love, of peace and goodwill, are at the heart of Christmas. That message always has a vital contribution to make to Irish society.

The birth of Christ is a powerful affirmation of all that is truly human. It is the basis for a new approach to the problems of our time. In collaboration, I believe the Churches, faith communities and those of other philosophical world views can, and should, work constructively with our public representatives in a shared commitment to the common good.

My hope is that the year ahead will see the relationship between faith and public life in our country move beyond the sometimes negative, exaggerated caricatures of the past. A mature and respectful collaboration between all faith communities and world views could help us to find sustainable solutions to the serious economic, social and moral challenges that confront us.

Politics alone cannot address the need for meaning and purpose in life – elements which are absolutely essential to human happiness and fulfilment. Neither can purely economic solutions suffice in this area. Unprecedented financial pressures, and an ever increasingly aggressive public culture along with social, moral and spiritual fragmentation, are leading to lives being overwhelmed by stress, intolerable interior isolation and even quiet despair. We can, and should, do better than this in striving to create a society truly worthy of the dignity of the human person. It would have to be a society in which the emotional, moral and religious as well as the economic needs are met. The consequences of failing to cater for those needs can be tragic.

The Christmas message calls us to care for each other. Fortunately, it evokes, each year, a wonderful response from so many good and generous people – people who are acutely aware of our common dignity as persons and our shared responsibility for the society in which we live. The Saviour was born as an infant in need of care. That fact reminds us of our special responsibility to care for the weak and for the vulnerable who cannot care for themselves. One of the fundamental rights issues of our time is the right of children and families not to have to live in poverty. I believe this failure to prioritise the elimination of child and family poverty in the reform of the tax and welfare system, in any jurisdiction, is unworthy of a society which claims to have a paramount concern for children.

A society worthy of the human person is a society which excels is showing compassion, care and concern for all those who are suffering, vulnerable or in crisis. It is also a society which celebrates and cherishes life.

When God became one of us he said the biggest possible yes to life. The child born in the manger asks us to say yes to life too, yes to our own life and yes to the life and well-being of every other person, from conception to natural death.

We approach what, I believe, will prove to be a defining moment regarding Ireland’s attitude to respect and care for human life. Public representatives will be asked to decide whether a caring and compassionate society is defined by providing the best possible care and protection to a woman struggling to cope with an unwanted pregnancy or, by the deliberate destruction of another human life. It is the position of the Catholic Church that both lives are equal sacred and have an equal right to life. I hope that everyone who believes that the right to life is fundamental will make their voice heard in a reasonable, but forthright, way to their representatives, reminding them that the right to life is conferred on human beings not by the powerful ones of this world but by the Creator, and that therefore no government has the right to remove that right from an innocent person. There is no more important value than upholding the right to life in all circumstances.
For the Church in Ireland, 2012 will always be remembered as the year of the 50thInternational Eucharistic Congress. As we make approach the New Year of 2013, the memory of the Congress and the many graces it brought gives us great encouragement and hope.

We live in an age where so many are weighed down by anxiety, grief or regret. Yet I believe the future belongs to those who can provide trustworthy reasons to hope. That is why the future will always belong to the child born in the manger, who takes upon himself the hopes and fears of all the years and transforms them in to the sure and certain hope of eternal life.

Let us pray this Christmastide, that his love will touch us deeply. Let us pray that through the Year of Faith we be helped to explain the hope that is within us. This year, as in every year since his birth among us, this remains the most urgent challenge – to be joyful heralds of the hope that He brings.

Ten thousand unite for life: Dublin, Dec. 4 2012

Posted on 08. Dec, 2012 in Diocesan and National News

More than 10,000 people assemble at Dáil Éireann on Tuesday, December 4th, to stand up for life, and to tell Fine Gael and Enda Kenny to keep their pro-life promise!

Protecting the Weakest

Posted on 08. Dec, 2012 in Diocesan and National News

Misleading information poses a serious threat to the life of the unborn. Please read the Irish Bishops’ Response to the Expert Group by clicking on the link below.

Irish Bishops’ Response