About RTÉ Television
The Afternoon Show
The Afternoon ShowRTÉ One, Weekdays, 4.00pm

The Papal Visit 1979

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

The Pope's Visit

. The Pope flew to Ireland on the Aer Lingus Boeing 747.
. When he got off the plane he kissed the tarmac - Irish soil.
. Normal life came to a standstill for 3 days.
. Dublin was decorated in the papal colours, yellow and white.
. An estimated two thirds of the population crowded various venues to see and hear the pope.
. Pope John Paul II was 59 years old when he visited Ireland. (He died in 2005)
. On his three day trip he visited Dublin, Drogheda, Clonmacnoise, Galway, Knock, Maynooth, Limerick and said a farewell at Shannon.
. Thousands of unpaid volunteers stewarded the various venues around the country.
. In the Phoenix Park a 116-foot high steel cross was erected to mark the spot where mass was to be said and was left in place as a civic reminder.
. At The Phoenix Park there was an estimated 1.25 million people waiting for the pontiff. This was nearly a third of the entire population of Ireland.
. He praised the loyalty of the Irish for their Catholic faith but to not live on past glories.
. On his visit to Dublin the Pope also visited the representatives of the non-Catholic churches at the Dominican Convent in Cabra.
. The Pope was due to go to Armagh but this part of his trip was canceled due to safety reasons. The Pope's trip was only one month after the murder of Lord Mountbatten.
. On the civil unrest in Ireland he said "On my knees I beg of you to turn away from the paths of violence and to return to ways of peace".
. In Galway about 200,000 people (mainly young people) had crowded into the Ballybrit racecourse for the papal mass. Bishop Eamonn Casey had been master of the ceremonies and Fr Michael Cleary kept the waiting crowd entertained by singing.
. In Galway the Pope said "I believe in youth with all my heart and all the strength of my conviction. And today I say: I believe in the youth of Ireland. I believe in you who stand here before me, in every one of you. When I look at you, I see the Ireland of the future. Tomorrow you will be the living force of your country, you will decide what Ireland will be. Tomorrow, as technicians or teachers, nurses or secretaries, farmers or tradesmen, doctors or engineers, priests or religious - tomorrow you will have the power to make dreams come true".
. However, it was his conclusion that got the crowd cheering. "Young people of Ireland, I love you".
. An estimated 450,000 people waited for him at Knock.
. His final message was "semper fidelis", "always faithful".
. After Ireland he went straight to USA.
. There was a reported baby boom 9 months after the Pope's visit. David McWilliams called his book 'The Pope's Children' after this baby boom.
. John Paul was the number one name in 1979.

Joe Duffy:

How did you get to read at the papal mass in Galway?
I was President of The Student Union in college and someone from The Catholic Youth council contacted me to do it and I said yes.

Were your parents proud? Did they go to Galway?
No, they were more worried about me being president of the students union in Trinity. My mother was worried that I should cut my hair and wear a suit and I did none of those and she was mortified. No they didn't go to Galway - it was a youth mass - they went to The Phoenix Park.

What was the day like?
I was only concerned that I got there. I was a bit nervous and I had to write the piece myself and I wrote about Leadership in Ireland. I didn't get to meet the Pope - you weren't allowed. You were standing beside him. The Bishops were euphoric on the day.

We camped somewhere the night before. We had to leave the campsite at 4am and marched to Ballybrit through the pitch darkness. There was amazing calm and silence just thousands walking and shuffling their feet towards the racecourse. There was out pouring of joy on the day. It was a great community atmosphere on the day - a great buzz - like a carnival.

There was a party the night before in the campsite. A sing song and a few cans. There was a huge party that night. We had people up singing on the stage. It was like a festival.

Buy any souvenirs?
I didn't buy any souvenirs - there wasn't much on sale on the day as far as I could see.