The second papal visit to Ireland will attract a large crowd again to Dublin and Knock.New health and safety regulations will mean that crowds will be limited but still hundreds of thousands are likely to see Pope Francis.The country has changed much since 1979, mass attendances have fallen heavily since then, particularly in the urban areas, but in the countryside the Catholic Church still has a strong following.Church weddings, baptisms are still strong, and funerals will still attract large attendances even if some of the mourners are not weekly attenders at mass.
The biggest problem for the church, at present, is the lack of priests for the various parishes.Undertakers will tell you that they now have more funerals on a Sunday for this reason, as a shortage of priests limits the number of funerals that can be carried out leaving them having to provide a 7 day service.
These are some of the practical points , more priests are coming from overseas to minister here and we have a priest from Poland and India in Waterford and a Chinese priest in Tramore, new trends are emerging, in this new diversity of the priest hood in Ireland.Pope Francis from Argentina is seen as more a man of the people and a surprise choice for Pope.He has increased the popularity of the position and his sympathy for the disadvantaged and the poor is well known.This will attract many more to see the Pope than expected a few years ago. Dublin will be paralysed traffic wise for this visit and with an All Ireland on day two, it may be a difficult time there, free public transport is a bonus. The issue of child abuse will have to be addressed by the Pope, some terrible wrongs have been perpetrated by clergy and religious orders. The recent findings in Pennsylvania in the USA were extraordinary and showed how embedded those practices were in some locations.
Making a move for married priests and women priests has been resisted so far by the Vatican and is unlikely to be part of the agenda for the Papal visit, despite efforts by former President of Ireland Mary McAleese , who has been very strident in her views.
It should be an interesting week for the church and politics in Ireland, Minister of State John Halligan is not attending a political event for the Pope, others may follow.
Overall though, we expect most will take the opportunity to attend this historic event, we hope all passes peacefully. Many buses and cars will travel from parishes in Waterford and the South East to Dublin and Knock, we hope they all get there safely and enjoy the events.