Is there hope for the Pope?

Is there hope for the Pope?

By Cathy Lee

This piece was originally written for NUI Galway’s Student Independent News/sin.ie. Image is by Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

When it was announced that Ireland was to receive the Pope in late August, once again we were reminded of the reality of the ongoing process of Ireland’s separating of Church and State. For decades, Irish citizens have felt the affects of a constitution being filled with heavy church teachings, values and beliefs given a platform so high that it infringes on the choices of people, regardless of their religious or non-religious background. We live in a changing Ireland, and how this visit is handled by those in power, will do a great deal in defining this position going forward.

To correctly handle the Pope’s visit, we must first and foremost recognise how Ireland has changed since the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1979. Almost forty years later, we live in more secular times where Ireland should no longer be defined as “a Catholic country” as it has been on numerous occasions in the past. Today, we are open to others, the various minorities regardless of creed or race in the true honour to the land of a hundred thousand welcomes. I don’t take a position to say that the Pope should not be welcomed or allowed to visit, as that would just be another form of exclusion or intolerance and so, this is not progress. The Pope is a world figure, it would not be in Ireland’s best interest to deny him.
We even saw last month, our Taoiseach rubbing shoulders with US leader Donald Trump for St Patrick’s Day which was met with a mixed reaction. Just because Trump does not represent the position of the majority of Irish people, this does not mean that such visits of a political nature should be boycotted or denied. The same is true of the Pope. Sometimes respect has to be given to those we may not agree with in order to receive respect back, just as long as we don’t act like something we are not. Maybe it is just a case of keeping up appearances but in my view if the Pope’s visit is to be correctly handled, honesty is key. We need not play false roles in pretending that every person in Ireland love’s Catholicism and prays under a candle to the Pope each evening, because this simply isn’t true and does not represent Ireland in 2018.

Although this will not be a formal state visit, but as part of a larger World Meeting of Families, there are talks of civil protesting of the summer events, particularly from those who are survivors of institutional church abuse. I think anyone in this position should be entitled to do that. But of course we are a mixed country, from those who will celebrate the Pope’s visit here and those who may not even be aware of it. What we are all aware of, are the wrongs we have seen from the church in this country’s past and we derive our own position on people and their background that has they where they are from this. But there can be nothing worse than keeping a fire burning instead of trying to find a new more tolerant way forward. Of course not forgetting past atrocities, but progressing in a way that this hurt does not define you as a whole person.

We have marriage equality in this country, we may have the 8th amendment repealed in the upcoming months. The political space is becoming a secular one, and so the Pope should be treated as a guest to this country like any other, with no entitlements or elitism. We saw recently that our previous President Mary McAleese was denied entry to a Vatican meeting for her political views. There is no defending this move from Pope Francis and I don’t think any Irish leader should forget this most recent action when the Pope comes to visit us. It’s true that we have moved on from the days of the Eucharist Congress and 1979 but of course only time will tell how this is going to go down in August. I just hope, that we won’t digress and revert back to an unhappy time of unquestioned Catholicism in forgetting all the progress we have made, both politically and socially.

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The final year files: February

The final year files: February

I’ve always liked February. (I also enjoy the alliteration of the f’s included in this title, but that’s just me being a grammar nerd).

The reason I like February is that I feel it’s the real starter month, the reality setting month. January sees everyone full of ambition and unrealistic ideas around their new found path to greatness, where February acts as a news flash, a reality check and me being me, I appreciate the honesty of the month.

My final February as an undergraduate was full of firsts and lasts, fun adventures oversees and the always dreaded: week six of college. But this time week six was not as drastically stressful as semester one. I knew what beast I had to tackle, and tackle that beast I did. Somehow it wasn’t as bad as last time; maybe I’ve even matured a little since then? Or not, your call.

So after January seemed to last for decades, February was welcomed – the short and sweet month. Time is everything in the last months of college and it was never felt as much as this month.

First off, we celebrated our final Arts Ball. This saw us all glamorous, celebrating our last opportunity to have a fun night together as college students in that kind of setting. Fancy drinks were had, picture upon picture taken and of course once we found the confidence to take to the floor, as final years, we took it by storm.

We even ended up in the photo-booth with some guys and gals from the journalism class (the day-one huns) and a few friendly extras. It was an amazing night all round and it’s something I’ll never forget. Also to note that we saw bands The Academic play as well as my favourite locals, Bob Skeleton. So it was a busy night that went by as a happy blur.

It wasn’t until the following day that I needed to get my wits together, as I had to catch a flight to the Netherlands – casually after four hours sleep. That I will also never forget, but the citylink bus provided a handy space for a nap as did the flight itself.

Everything went smoothly and we arrived to Amsterdam city centre, a beautiful opportunity to step back in time for me as I recalled visiting the city last year. But really there wasn’t too much time for sentimentality, as there was a mission at hand. The following day, I was to travel 30 minutes outside the city to Utrecht University to attend a Masters open day.

Although sort of stressful at the time, it was fun to go exploring outside the capital and find our destination, which could also potentially be my future place to live and study. It’s a wonderful city, very quaint and picturesque. The college was pretty perfect too, with a lot of exciting potentials to come from such a course. It wasn’t until I got home that I realised how perfect it all could be.

It made me realise how vast the options are. People say degrees open doors but I really think they offer an opportunity for exploration. You just have to be brave enough to take that leap of faith. It’s amazing to think that having my degree and the work I put in can get me onto something else, a little different than originally planned but still pretty fantastic.

The days of a one person one career seems different now, as we embrace change a little easier. I think that’s what visiting Utrecht taught me. So, I’ve decided to keep my options open and potentially apply for this course to begin in September 2019. I think it would be a disservice to my journalism if I didn’t give it my best shot after enjoying it for almost four years of an undergrad.

I will say though that visiting Utrecht gave me a motivational boost to get through my assignments, so much so that I successfully (really successfully) avoided unofficial RAG week in Galway. Where has the old me gone? Am I a real adult now?

To answer that: not quite.

As February came to a close and the first two midterm assignments were handed in, nobody could tell what was just around the corner.