By Sarah Mac Donald - 05 April, 2016
The historic synod getting underway in the diocese of Limerick this week received an important papal boost on Monday when an official blessing from Pope Francis was presented to the Bishop of Limerick by the Papal Nuncio to Ireland.
Pope Francis’ blessing was handed over to Bishop Brendan Leahy, who convoked the Synod in late 2014, by Archbishop Charles John Brown on a visit to Limerick four days ahead of the commencement of the Synod.
The Papal Blessing was sent by the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin on behalf of the Pope.
It states: “The Holy Father was pleased to be informed of the celebration of the Diocesan Synod and has asked me to assure the participants of his spiritual closeness during these days of community prayer, deliberation and discernment.”
“His Holiness invites those present to deepen their faith in Jesus Christ and his Church in the light of God’s mercy: “the bridge that connects God and man, opening hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness” (Misericordiae Vultus, 2). He trusts that all will be attentive to the voice of the Holy Spirit through personal and liturgical prayer to better discern God’s will in the life of the local Church.”
“With these sentiments and entrusting the people of the Diocese of Limerick to the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, his Holiness willingly imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and joy in the Lord.”
Bishop Leahy mentioned the Synod to Pope Francis during a brief audience with the Pontiff in Rome two weeks ago.
Dr Leahy described the Papal blessing as a wonderfully encouraging acknowledgement of the importance of the work that will take place during the Synod.
“There could not have been a better start for us to Synod Week than to receive this Papal Blessing. I took the opportunity when I met Pope Francis two weeks ago to tell him of the Synod and, as in the previous occasions when I referenced Limerick to him, his eyes lit up. It’s clear that he has an affinity for Limerick.”
“It’s an honour to have the Papal Nuncio with us in Limerick again this week but that he has come bearing such a gift as an Apostolic Blessing from His Holiness ahead of our Synod will really imbue a greater sense of purpose and vigour in all of us as we approach this hugely important gathering.”
“Save for Pope John Paul II’s visit to Limerick in 1979, this is probably the most important moment for the Church in this diocese since the last Synod, all of 80 years ago.”
Bishop Leahy said he looked forward to the outcome of the deliberations, the proposals for change that will come to me, and “all the more so that we have Pope Francis personal pledge of his spiritual support for us at this pivotal time.”
Synod Week, which runs this weeks, involves a range of celebrations and events across the diocese of Limerick.
It will culminate in the key gathering of almost 400 delegates, three quarters of them lay, at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick from Friday through to Sunday.
The three-day gathering will see delegates consider over 100 proposals across six separate themes to help map out the future of the Church and how it serves in Limerick.
The proposals and themes have emerged out of a lengthy and detailed engagement with over 5,000 people covering all demographics from across the diocese in 2015.