Though the size of the congregation at the Papal Mass in the Phoenix Park some weeks ago was always in dispute, it is certain that it was far smaller than the Catholic hierarchy and traditionalists had hoped for.
Yesterday, the Office of Public Works confirmed just how small that crowd really was. The agency recorded that the final headcount was just under 152,000.
That figure is around half the total that was expected to attend the three-day National Ploughing Championships in Screggan, Co Offaly, before yesterday’s programme was cancelled because of adverse weather.
There are some Irish people who will gloat, often with very good reason, over the size of the Phoenix Park crowd but that would be a response on a par with Catholicism’s dreadful, self-destructive reaction to the litany of scandal that has pushed it to the very margins of everyday life.
The figure, however, must add an undeniable impetus to the campaigns to further separate Church and State, especially in the areas of education and health.