26 August 2018

A brief Papal encounter
that the cameras almost
missed in the days before
‘selfies’ became acceptable

A brief introduction to Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican … almost missed by the cameras in the days before ‘selfies’ became acceptable and sophisticated

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XIII, Proper 16B). This morning [26 August 2018], the services in the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes are: 9.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer, Castletown Church, Kilcornan; and 11.30 a.m.: Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick.

The readings are: I Kings 8: (1, 6, 10-11,) 22-30, 41-43; Psalm 84; Ephesians 6: 10-20; and John 6: 56-69.

The Gospel reading this morning concludes a series of Sunday readings from the ‘Bread of Life’ discourse in Saint John’s Gospel, with the theme: ‘Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me’ (John 6: 56).

This morning, the visiting preacher at both services is the Revd Kevin Conroy, of Dalkey Parish in the Diocese of Dublin. It was a privilege some years ago to supervise Kevin’s MTh research and dissertation, and we have remained good friends since his student days.

Although I am not preaching this morning, in the prayers I shall be using intercessions in both churches to mark the visit to Ireland this weekend by Pope Francis I.

Last Tuesday, I was invited to take part in a service in Saint John’s Cathedral, Limerick, that was part of the preparations throughout Ireland for this visit.

Many years ago, when I was chair of the Dublin University Far Eastern Mission, I was taking part in a conference in Rome in September 2005 on the Church in China, and was part of a small group who were invited to sit in the front row at the top steps of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and I was introduced – unexpectedly and albeit very briefly – by Cardinal Desmond Connell to Pope Benedict XVI.

It was an opportunity to bring greetings from Archbishop John Neill of Dublin, which were conveyed graciously by Cardinal Connell. And, with humour, I can recall how it was almost a missed photo opportunity too – it was the day when ‘selfies’ were still seen as selfish and were not as sophisticated and as acceptable as they are today.

With the Revd Dr Alan McCormack (then Dean of Residence, Trinity College Dublin, and Metropolitan Nikitas of the Dardanelles (then Archbishop of Hong Kong) at the conference on the Churches and China in Rome in September 2005

Thirteen years after that conference in Rome and that brief papal handshake in the Vatican that was never properly caught by the cameras, I am praying this morning for the visit of Pope Francis.

Our Roman Catholic neighbours in this diocese and throughout Ireland are welcoming Pope Francis to this island this weekend in the context of the World Meeting of Families. This is an important event, not only for the Roman Catholic Church but for all Christians in Ireland, as we welcome someone who is exercising remarkable Christian leadership on a global scale and in difficult circumstances.

The Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe, the Right Revd Kenneth Kearon, has written to his fellow Roman Catholic bishops, and given, the very warm and cordial relationship we share with our Catholic parishes and neighbours, he suggests:

● That we pray in church for Pope Francis and other global Christian leaders at this time.

● That we pray in church for the World Meeting of Families and for family life.

● That where appropriate we send a message, possibly a letter or a visit, to our local Catholic parishes, assuring them of our prayers and good wishes at this time.

He says, ‘This is an important time of celebration for our Roman Catholic neighbours and we should assure them that we share in their joy and celebrations.’

He has circulated the following prayers:

A Prayer for Christian Leaders:

Hear us, O Lord, as we lift up before you all who bear the bewildering responsibility of Christian leadership among the churches of the world. Especially at this time we pray for Pope Francis and his visit to Ireland, for Justin, Archbishop of Canterbury and His All Holiness Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch.

Give them wisdom beyond their own, integrity in all their dealings, and a resolve to seek first your kingdom and your righteousness for all humankind.

We ask it in the name of Christ.

A Prayer for Family Life:

God our Father, whose Son Jesus Christ lived at Nazareth as a member of a human family; hear our prayer for all homes and families, and especially for our own, that they may be blessed by his presence and united in his love.

We ask this in his name.


Almighty God,
who called your Church to bear witness
that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself:
Help us to proclaim the good news of your love,
that all who hear it may be drawn to you;
through him who was lifted up on the cross,
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post-Communion Prayer:

God our creator, you feed your children with the true manna,
the living bread from heaven.
Let this holy food sustain us through our earthly pilgrimage
until we come to that place
where hunger and thirst are no more;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.


112, There is a redeemer (CD7);
533, God of grace and God of glory (CD 533);
614, Great Shepherd of your people, hear (CD 35).

‘Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me’ (John 6: 56) … an icon in a shop window in Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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