Six Irish trainee priests will take part in a special ceremony with Pope Benedict today marking the Flight of the Earls.
The procession through the streets of Rome re-enacts chieftain Hugh O’Neill’s role in the Corpus Christi ceremony in Rome in 1608.
The Earl and his followers had fled Ireland the previous year after failing to defeat English armies and were welcomed with a private meeting with Pope Paul V.
Monsignor Liam Bergin, Rector of the Pontifical Irish College, said it was a great honour for the seminarians to be invited to join Pope Benedict for this year’s procession.
“The honour shown to the Irish Earls 400 years ago, by Pope Paul V, has been revisited on eight Irish College seminarians who will assist Pope Benedict in this procession,” he said.
The Monsignor said it was important to recognise the religious dimension of the anniversary of the Flight of the Earls and the welcome they received.
The ceremony will be attended by representatives from the Irish Embassy to the Holy See, the Embassy in Rome and members of the Irish community.
Two deacons, Colin Crossey from the Diocese of Down and Connor and Shane Gallagher from the Diocese of Raphoe, will participate in the Corpus Christi Mass.
Four other seminarians, Patrick O’Donoghue from Galway, Colin Rothery from Dublin, Michael Hinds from Meath and Sean Davidson from Elphin will flank Pope Benedict in the procession from the basilicas Saint John Lateran and Saint Mary Majors.
After they arrived in Rome in April 1608, O’Neill and his followers met Pope Paul V. The Earl, his son-in-law and six other nobles were asked to carry the canopy in the Corpus Christi procession.