The Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, Kieran O'Reilly has returned energised and motivated from his Ad Limina visit to The Vatican and has brought back a key message from Pope Francis for the people of Cashel and Emly.
With the Holy Father expected to come to Ireland next year to celebrate the World Meeting of Families in August, the key and central message will be of the importance of family - a place in which children and adults can develop, learn, flourish, grow and be safe.
The Argentinian Pope, who Archbishop Kieran says promotes the simplicity of rediscovering the essential things as being very important to him, has a personal connection with Ireland. In the 1980's Francis lived with the Jesuit community for three months at the Milltown Institute on Sandford Road, in Ranelagh, South Dublin, and he has a real affection and grá for Ireland which will be underlined greatly with his visit.
Archbishop Kieran O'Reilly
He has chosen the theme of “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World,” and Archbishop Kieran expanded upon this theme when The Tipperary Star chatted to him this week.
Pope Francis' visit will be the first Papal visit to Ireland since Pope John Paul II’s visit brought the country to a standstill in August 1979. Nearly three million people turned out to see the Pope, who said four masses in the Phoenix Park, Drogheda, Galway and Knock. However, Archbishop Kieran does not see Pope Francis 'doing the touring thing' - rather he will spend time with families, talking to them, engaging with them and most importantly of all, listening to them.
Pope Francis spoke to Archbishop Kieran and his fellow bishops of the "apostleship of the listening ear" and this has been promoted by him at all times.
"One of the things he wants to focus on is family. He is a very practical and ordinary kind of guy. When he meets families , he simply asks them questions like; Do you take time every day with your children? Do have time to take time? Do you play with them? Do they know you? He is very rooted in what he says and he is of the view that this is how you build family- you build relationships from the inside. It is almost like his encyclical Laudato Si - it is the small things which matter, not the big theoretical things which are there as well, but which can be up in the sky at times.
"That's his style - what is the quality of your family life? Are you coming in and all turning on a different electrical apps? - he's not disagreeing with that, but he is saying there must be a time to be together as a family. And, that's as old as common sense really. That's what he is emphasising and stressing - he has made it clear that he will be coming for the families next year, he will not be doing the grand tour," Archbishop Kieran said.
He added, "Pope Francis sees an awful lot in being family centered and that the Church must be focused on family and the growth of family and helping families to be what they can be, and who they can be. In every family, it's the children which must come first and we work from there then.
"I don't think that we can just be confined by any boundaries any more. We certainly have the ideal of family and we know what that is, but family really is when you go in and close the door and those who are inside in that community of love, however it is made up. Pope Francis would be talking about the traditional understanding of family but by no means does he exclude the others who are part of our society, and we can't either, because if we want children to grow and be happy, we want it to be in the best environment for them," he said.
Archbishop Kieran touched upon his own family and spoke about the pain of losing his mother shortly after moving to Cashel and Emly - his father died shortly after Kieran had been appointed Bishop of Killaloe and the family home in Cork feels empty without their presence. But, the memories remain and Archbishop Kieran looks back on his family life very fondly with the influence of his grandmother being enormous, especially on own faith and eventual vocation.
"My grandmother would have been a huge influence on me really. I often think about the faith influence in my life and my grandmother would have been a very big one. The Pope spoke about his own grandmother and the importance of grandparents in out lives, and how important that element is inside family. One of the saddest things about modern life is when young people are forced to be be away from their parents or grandparents because they need that support network for so many different and varying reasons.
"Family will give life to the Church, because the Church flourishes on families, not excluding individuals. The joy of the Church really is a flourishing community of families inside it and that's what Pope Francis would have been communicating to us and would want to be carried back as a message. The concern he would have, is that in the world we live in, because it has gone so high tech, we can substitute a lot of that human interaction and presence with each other, with technology."