The Holy See
back up



Basilica of St John Lateran
Saturday, 13 November 2004


Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On this day of celebration for the entire Irish community, I warmly welcome all present. A special word of greeting goes to the concelebrants, who include Cardinal Desmond Connell, the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, and other brothers in the Episcopate. I extend respectful greetings to the Authorities present, especially to Mr Dermot Ahern, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and to Ambassador Philip McDonagh, and I also greet the members of the Diplomatic Corps.

Today, with the Psalmist, we have sung: "Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord" (Ps 113[112]: 1). It is only right on this significant anniversary that we turn to God with joyful hearts to praise him and give him thanks.

Praise, thanksgiving and adoration are fundamental to all Christian prayer and are a basic duty of every Christian. By praising God, we recognize who he is and we give him glory simply because he is God.

As we recall God's saving deeds and the wonders he has worked in history and in our own lives, we are led to give him thanks.

Filled with awe at God's greatness and almighty power, we fall on our knees to adore him. In doing so, we recognize the truth about God who created us, and the truth about ourselves, made from the dust of earth and called to eternal life with him.

The Responsorial Psalm of today's Mass summons us to give praise and thanks to God. This Psalm is associated with the feast of Passover, which commemorates the great events that led to the freeing of Israel from slavery in Egypt and its establishment as a nation under God.

Like the people of Israel, we too are God's servants, called to praise and give thanks to him at all times and in all places: "from the rising of the sun to its setting" (Ps 113[112]: 3).

Certainly, God is above anything we can either know or imagine. As the Lord of history and the cosmos, the master of all peoples and their destiny, he is "high above all nations" and his glory is "above the heavens" (Ps 113[112]: 4).

As we raise our minds to the great mystery that God is, we too ask: "who is like the Lord our God?" (Ps 113[112]: 5). No word, no expression suffices to describe him: he is greater than anything that can be thought.

Yet God in his greatness is not far removed from us. In his goodness, he has come close to us. He "stoops from the heights to look down, to look down upon heaven and earth" (Ps 113[112]: 6).

The transcendent, mysterious and almighty God is also the God who is concerned about every individual, from the greatest to the least. In his great love for all, he is particularly concerned about the lowly and the poor, whom he raises to a new dignity, setting them "in the company of princes" (Ps 113 [112]: 8).

The Psalmist was well aware that God is the ultimate source of man's dignity and happiness. It is easy to apply this Psalm to the history of every nation and to the personal story of every individual.
Today, we sing God's praises, as we wonder at his transcendent majesty and give thanks to him for the good things he has done.

Some years ago, I had occasion to visit Ireland, where I witnessed the traditional devotion of the Irish to Our Lady.

In your Country, Mary is venerated as "Queen of Ireland". Down through the centuries, particularly in the dark days of persecution, Mary accompanied the Irish People, comforting them in their sorrow and rekindling their hope.

Today, the Irish continue to turn to her. Many regularly pray the Rosary in the family home, or gather at the many Marian grottoes scattered throughout the Country, especially at the Marian Shrine in Knock. They do so in the awareness that Mary continually intercedes for us and is the great model of faith on life's journey.

Like the Psalmist, Mary too teaches us to give thanks and praise to God.

In the Magnificat, she joyfully sings God's praises for the great things he has done for her and for her people. She thanks him for looking down upon her in her lowliness, choosing her to fulfil his saving purpose. She recognizes the mighty deeds he has done throughout the history of Israel, and is well aware that God's actions on behalf of his people are due not to any merit on their part but to his own loving mercy.

Like Mary, we too have reason to be thankful to God, especially for the priceless gift of faith and for the many blessings he has bestowed upon us.

Today, we are giving thanks for 75 years of diplomatic relations between Ireland and the Holy See. The establishment of these relations in 1929 was, however, only the latest in a long series of contacts between the Irish and the city of the Popes.

Tradition connects the early evangelizing missions of Palladius and Patrick with the early fifth-century Pope Celestine I.

The contribution of Irish monks like Colmcille, Columbanus, Gall and Killian to the Christian identity of Europe is well-known, as is their devotion to the See of Peter.

In more turbulent times, Irish Catholics were prepared to accept martyrdom rather than renounce their faith and obedience to the Successor of Peter.

The same intrepid faith led many Irish priests, Religious and lay people to undertake missionary activity in every continent, thus spreading the Gospel of Christ and contributing to making the world a better place for all.

The link between Ireland and Rome was firmly sealed 25 years ago when Pope John Paul II, the first Pope to set foot on Irish soil, went there for a memorable Pastoral Visit.

The extraordinary history of Irish Catholicism and a desire for official channels of communication between the Holy See and the newly founded Irish Free State prompted both parties to enter into negotiations which led to the formal establishment of diplomatic relations in November 1929.

In 1930, the first Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Paschal Robinson, a native of Dublin, arrived in Ireland.

After a series of Irish official envoys to the Holy See, the first Ambassador, Mr Joseph Walshe, was appointed in 1946. Among other things, he encouraged the construction of the very first national chapel in the grotte of St Peter's Basilica, the Chapel of St Columbanus, which was inaugurated in 1954. He was also instrumental in the purchase of the present Irish Embassy, the Villa Spada on the Janiculan Hill.

Today, we remember the various Apostolic Nuncios who served in Dublin and the successive Irish Ambassadors and other diplomatic personnel who served here on behalf of their Country. We give thanks for their good work, as we ask God's blessings on all who continue to promote good relations between Ireland and the Holy See.

My final thoughts go to the people of Ireland. In this Mass, as we give thanks and praise to God for the past, I invite you to join in asking his continued blessings on the Irish Nation.

I pray that Ireland will continue to make her specific contribution to the spiritual and material progress of Europe, and that God will bless her Leaders with wisdom, generosity and selfless commitment.

In recent years, much has been achieved in bringing about peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. These successes are in no small way due to the patience and determination of the Governments in Dublin and London, and to the encouragement and support of the Catholic Church and the other Christian communities.

Much work still remains to be done, and we pray that Almighty God will bless the efforts of all people of good will to ensure a better future for all.

Recent economic successes have led to an overall improvement of living standards which will hopefully benefit all who live in Ireland, without exception.

Economic achievement also brings with it new challenges and responsibilities, including those of safeguarding and promoting the moral and spiritual values of society. This can only be done when the truth about the person and his ultimate destiny is faithfully respected, and the common good of all is sought and defended.

In this regard, the wisdom that goes with Ireland's long Christian experience provides a sure guide for the harmonious and integral development of her culture and society.

Looking forward in hope, I entrust Ireland, her Leaders and her People, to the protection of Mary, Queen of Ireland, and St Patrick, the national apostle. As we give thanks, we ask Almighty God to bless Ireland with his gifts of peace, harmony and spiritual and material well-being.

Beannacht Dé oraibh go léir!

*L'Osservatore Romano. Weekly Edition in English n. 456 p.9.