An Cailín Rua
It’s great to hear that Jorge Mario Bergoglio will be paying us a visit this summer, isn’t it?
In case you’ve been living under a rock of late, His Holiness Pope Francis is due to attend part of the Ninth World Meeting of Families in Dublin this August. He will also visit Knock Shrine as part of his two-day visit, to lift the curse that has prevented Mayo from winning the All-Ireland, and maybe to say a prayer or two in our beautiful basilica while he’s at it.
News of the Pope’s visit has been greeted with much enthusiasm. Aside from Garth Brooks and the All-Ireland final, rarely has such a scramble for tickets been seen in Ireland. With 500,000 tickets available for the Papal Mass in Phoenix Park, 70,000 for the RDS and 45,000 for Knock, one would have to wonder whether even the mighty Garth himself would have such pulling power.
Not all of the reaction has been positive, however, and an orchestrated protest against the Pope’s visit has been taking place in the background in the shape of a Facebook event, ‘Say Nope to the Pope’. They idea is to encourage people to book large numbers of free tickets for the events, which will not be used, to ensure a low turnout at events.
Now, regular readers of this column will know that I hold no truck with organised religion. The Popemobile could park up across the road and the Pope himself could nip in for a bag of chips, and I wouldn’t break my stride. It’s not borne out of any particular malice or badness; just disinterest.
But for the life of me, I cannot fathom why people would take time out of their day to actively prevent other people from attending an event in which they have no interest. I can’t comprehend the level of mean-spiritedness behind it, and I can’t figure out what on earth these people think it will achieve.
Those engaging in this protest cite the evils perpetuated and facilitated by the Church in Ireland over the past century or so. That anger is understandable; and the Church’s subsequent lack of remorse or redress is beneath contempt. Yet, I can simultaneously acknowledge some of the positive contributions made by the Church in areas like health care and education.
Clearly ethical issues still exist; the Catholic ethos in both education and health care can restrict and compromise health and wellbeing, and I am strongly in favour of secularism, but I refuse to believe that this work has been motivated solely by cynicism and a desire for control. In recent years, I have met too many kind and pragmatic individuals working within the Church to believe that.
And I understand what faith means to people, despite my own disinterest. Despite being warned never to argue about either politics or religion, I’ve had humdingers of arguments with friends who would insist that anyone who attends Mass is implicitly supporting the bad within the Church. I would argue that the Church is a merely the facilitator for practising these rituals of faith; and faith is a deeply personal thing. And for those of us who lack faith, perhaps the better approach is to treat religion as the irrelevancy it is in our own lives, without judging those who are doing what brings them comfort.
We have heard a lot about choice in recent months. Surely it is the choice of those with a genuine interest in either religion or celebrity to fulfil a wish to see the Pope in person; and not the choice of those who don’t wish to do so to prevent it?
You’d also have to question how the organisers of the World Meeting of Families event in Dublin could have left themselves open to such abuse of the system. There are surely certain basic preventative measures that could have been put in place, including restricting the number of tickets per booking (set at 12) and preventing multiple bookings from the same IP address.
Anyway, as always happens on All-Ireland final day, perhaps the tickets will resurface at the last minute. And if Francis manages to lift the curse, maybe I’ll be first in the queue myself next time.