At the Pro Cathedral, Diarmuid Martin yesterday reminded his congregation that saints are neither holy nor “perfect witnesses” as “God alone is the holy one”.
“Saints are not men and women taken out of human history and human realities, but are witnesses as to how we should try to live... They are not perfect witnesses.”
He said he remembered well the election of both popes, being just 13 in 1958, and watching television while doing his homework “when BBC television interrupted its programming to bring the announcement of the new Pope John”.
“When my parents returned home they asked me what my impressions were of the new pope. I honestly had to say that I was slightly bewildered.
“After the severe and austere figure of Pope Pius XII... this rather corpulent and jovial new pope seemed to me anything but ‘pope-like’.
“Pope John was about to change what being ‘pope- like’ meant. Pope John was to bring change to the Church and to change the impact of the Church on the world of his time.”
The Archbishop was a junior Vatican official and at Saint Peter’s Square for the announcement of the election of Pope John Paul II. This Polish pope would ordain him bishop in 1999 and would make him the archbishop of Dublin five years later.
“Very few could have imagined the extraordinary effect that this young pope — he was only 59 years old at the time — was to have on the Church and the world. He was the first pope to journey to so many countries in all continents. At the same time it should be remembered that he rarely missed a Sunday visit to a Roman Parish. He was very much the Bishop of Rome,” he said yesterday.
The Archbishop said he would not respond to “the polemics of those who caricature Pope John as Pope of the Vatican Council and Pope John Paul as someone who wished to roll back the council”.
Meanwhile, in Tralee, Co Kerry, at a ceremony to coincide with the canonisation, relics of the two new saints were installed in the Dominican priory in the town.
The Dominicans, an order of friars, have been in Tralee since the Middle Ages and Holy Cross Church is believed to be the only church in Ireland with relics of both popes and those of the Polish saint Sr Faustina.
The three reliquaries were placed on the altar of the church and are to be permanently displayed later. The relics are in the form of drops of the blood of Pope John XXIII, Pope John Paul II, and the Polish saint.
Dominican Prior Fr Joe Bulman, who presided at the Mass to mark the formal installation, said the relics of Pope John Paul II and St Faustina had come from Krakow in Poland.
“The relic of Pope John XXIII came from Rome. As far as I know, we are the only church in Ireland to have all three of them.
“We had been told that it was an absolute impossibility to get all three relics,” he said.