+ Bishop Colm O'Reilly - Pope John Paul II

Ever since what we have begun to call "world news" came to be the death of a Pope has been in that category. That said, there have been some Popes whose deaths have received a higher media rating than others because of their impact on the Church as its Supreme Pastor. Pope John XXIII was one of these because he had called the Second Vatican Council. He had also brought to the papacy a new style which appealed even to people outside of the Church. However, the death of Pope John Paul II is, you might say, in a class apart. Under several criteria he stands high above all his recent predecessors. As teacher of the faith he has made a profound impact. As a pastoral Pope he has set extraordinarily high standards by travelling the world. He did much to bring change to the political landscape of Europe. To that list of extraordinary achievements many more could be added.


To have held the highest office in the Catholic Church for twenty six years puts the Polish Pope ahead of all but one Pope of recent centuries. The Church may never again have a Pope who will stay at the helm for quite so long. This giant among the successors of Peter will stand beside Popes to whom the Church gave the title "Great". The Church has experienced long and strong leadership since he succeeded John Paul I who lived a mere month as Pope.


People will inevitably compare Pope John Paul II with world leaders who were also in the limelight during his time as Pope. He will be compared to American Presidents, to leaders of vast nations like China and Russia (before its break-up), to the great founders of the European Union. I believe that it will be said that none of these will compare with him, none in charisma, none in energy and, probably, none in global impact.


One of the remarkable things that will be said about Pope John Paul II is that small countries like our own were important to him, as important as any other. While circumstances, in the form of the centenary celebrations at Knock, led to the invitation which brought him to Ireland in 1979, it has to be said that he really did want to come anyway. It is well known that he wanted to return but political considerations rendered it impossible for him to travel to Northern Ireland. When it was finally possible to extend the invitation to him to come, it proved to be, alas, too late.


Every single serving Bishop in Ireland, except one, has been appointed by Pope John Paul II. Those of us who have been long serving have had the privilege of meeting him many times. I have often said that my own abiding memories of these meetings will always be the fact that he had a marvellous gift of listening to the person with him at any particular time. You almost felt that, if you were to return to meet him a year later, he might just pick up the conversation where it had ended!


Pope John Paul II must have visited 5% of the Dioceses in the world. Although his visit to Clonmacnois was a very short one, I think we should be very proud that he did set foot on the sacred soil of that monastic site. We should take particular pride in the fact that it meant a great deal to him, remembering it many times when he spoke to Irish people. In the Bishop's House in Longford there is a kneeler on which I have the privilege of kneeling to pray each day. On that kneeler is a brass plaque which says : "Pope John Paul knelt on this prie-dieu on the 30th of September 1979 in Clonmacnois". It now becomes an even greater treasure than it has been for the last twenty-five years.

+ Colm O'Reilly, April 2005. Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois.

Archived References  
Bishop Colm's Christmas Message 2010
Statement by Bishop Colm O'Reilly on the Dublin Report
Bishop Colm O'Reilly video interview for Mission Sunday 2009
Message on Diocesan Pilgrimage to Knock 2009
Homily by Bishop Colm for Trinity Sunday, on 150 years of SVP in Longford.
Bishop Colm's Pastoral Letter Easter 2009
Bishop Colm's Christmas Message 2008
Bishop's Letter to the Diocese, Easter 2008, 'on the way forward'.
Bishop's Message for the Year of Vocation
Bishop's Homily at Diocesan Pilgrimage to Knock, Sept 2007
Message from Bishop Colm on Ferns Report
Message from Bishop Colm on the death of Pope John Paul II
Homily by Bishop Colm at Requiem Mass for Pope John Paul II in St. Mel's Cathedral, 7th April
Statement from the Bishop, 27th May 2006
Homily at Clonmacnois Pattern Day, 2006
Bishop's Christmas Message 2005
Message from Bishop Colm for Vocations Sunday 2005