A GROUP of 50 Limerick people will be among the two million expected to throng the streets of Rome for the beatification ceremony of the late Pope John Paul II on May 1.
Two well-known county Limerick priests are organising a special pilgrimage to Rome to mark the county’s link with the late Pope, on the occasion of his beatification.
Fr Joseph Foley CC, Bruff and Canon William Fitzmaurice, PP, Kilmallock, will lead the Limerick pilgrimage to the Holy City in association with the Pope John Paul 11 Oratory at the Crescent Shopping Centre.
And with only 50 places available, those interested in making what is sure to be a historic trip, are advised to book early to avoid disappointment. Hotels and city authorities in Rome are bracing themselves for crowds as big as the ones that descended on the Vatican when John Paul II died on April 2, 2005, after a pontificate that spanned a quarter century. Since the beatification announcement, bookings have “exploded” according to Giuseppe Roscioli, head of Federalberghi Roma, which represents around 500 hotels and offers around 90,000 of the capital’s 150,000 beds.
“I have had terrible trouble booking a hotel - we were very lucky to get one,” said Fr Foley. “There are 50 seats so early booking is advisable,” he added.
At the City Mall entrance to the Crescent Shopping Centre stands a small oratory that is dedicated to Pope John Paul 11, which was opened to commemorate the visit of the Holy Father to Limerick in 1979.
The blessing and the opening was performed by Dr Jeremiah Newman on Thursday, September 29 1983.
“It was a novel effort at the time, instigated by the late Bishop of Limerick, Dr Jeremiah Newman and the management of the Crescent Shopping Centre, and the owners of the complex, who generously donated a free site, where people could take time out to say a quiet prayer amidst the busy surrounds of the shopping complex,” said Fr Foley of the only memorial to the Holy Father in Limerick. “The oratory is Limerick’s permanent commemoration of the visit here in 1979 of his Holiness Pope John Paul 11,”Fr Foley continued.
Interestingly, the chalice which Fr Foley uses at Holy Mass every week was a gift from the Holy Father to mark his visit to Limerick and it is stamped with his coat of arms. The oratory was for years in the care of the Jesuit community, and Fr Foley was appointed care taker of it four years ago.
“The chapel is a help to us in Limerick to remember the Pope’s message and to help to preserve the soul of the city,” said Fr Foley who had the privilege of meeting his Holiness in Rome, as a student working in the Irish College. “It is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I remember travelling with my family to see him in Green Park racecourse. We had to walk from Patrickswell to the venue - a memorable day with the tens of thousands of Munster people coming to welcome the Holy Father,” continued Fr Foley who was presented with two sets of rosary beads during his meeting with the Holy Father - one for his father Michael, now deceased, and another for his mother, Anne.
Meanwhile, over the last six months the oratory has been completely renovated thanks to ongoing donations by members of the public. Interior design Anita Lane masterminded the redesign. A new marble floor has been inserted on the altar along with a new lectern, priest’s chair and lighting.
Fittingly, the two keys which feature on the coat of arms of his Holiness, Pope John Paul 11, has been engraved into the front of the altar. The next job is to fit a new entrance door with stained glass features.
Mass is celebrated there every Saturday at 12 noon and every holy day of obligation at 1pm. Every first Saturday a holy hour is observed, and every Friday a group meet at 3pm to pray the Divine Mercy prayers. The sacrament of penance is available before and after all masses. Two local ladies, Gobnait Wall Kelly from Huntsfield, Dooradoyle and Mary P Andrews from South Circular Road look after the oratory, arranging the flowers and making sure everything is as it should be.
Meanwhile, the Limerick pilgrimage will take place from April 29 for five nights, B and B, at the four star Abitart Hotel. The cost is €799 per person inclusive. For further details contact Fr Foley on 087 2618412 or Canon William Fitzmaurice on 086 2423728.