By Lydia O’Kane
As Pope Francis prepares for his own apostolic visit for the World Meeting of Families, many Irish people have been sharing their memories of the Polish Pope’s voyage to the land of Saints and Scholars. One of those is Capuchin Priest Fr Bryan Shortall who was just 10 years old when he witnessed the Saint say Mass in front of over 1 million faithful in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.
“Many of us are reminiscing” says the Dublin priest who recently visited the Phoenix Park to view a Papal Exhibition of memorabilia from Pope John Paul’s visit in 1979. “It brought me right back to when I was a kid, he continues, when I was in the Phoenix Park and also on the streets of Dublin because we saw him in John’s lane under the Church of St Augustine and St John… and I remember shouting as a kid “Pope John Paul”. I can still remember he had a red sombrero on and he had the long red cloak and he just literally blessed and waved to everybody as he went through the streets of Dublin.” He goes on to say that the Phoenix Park is still emotional today because there was a carnival atmosphere because of the visit and it is the place where John Paul celebrated Mass.
Wake up call for John Paul
In an anecdote from the time, Fr Shortall recalls, “we even had a thing called an alarm car… so basically in ’79 a lot of the residents’ associations organized an alarm car to go around the streets to wake us up; 4 o’clock in the morning there was a sort of speaker, “wake up, the Holy Father, wake up go to your parishes”. He adds, that the park is still a focal point for him and many people who he grew up with. While the visit of Pope Francis to Dublin won’t be of the same magnitude as that of 1979, Fr Shortall describes it as one which is highly anticipated.