Pope Pius XI’s Address to the Irish National Pilgrimage
Pope Pius XI gave the following discourse to the Irish National Pilgrimage in audience on 21 October, 1925, in response to an address of loyalty which they had presented:
This is not the first nor the only group of Irish people We have received during this wonderful Holy Year; for already We have welcomed many of Our dear Irish children, many from that dear land which has always been known to Us as the Island of Saints, the Emerald Isle, verdant as your pilgrimage banner, holy as the infinite number of your Saints. Great, indeed, was the joy with which We received so many of these our specially beloved children — nay more, We may add that Ireland is ever near unto Us, is ever at Our side in that dear and splendid representative, the Irish College, which We warmly cherish close at hand, as Our predecessors have done, ever vying with each other in demonstrating their good-will towards your national College, this special representation of a whole people, of a whole isle, of this well-beloved branch of the great Catholic family. How dear is this College to Us is a secret to none: dear, too, shall it ever remain; and glad shall We ever be to contribute even in a small way to its steady prosperity, so as to be able, even in Our own day, to see the number of Our dear Irish children increase within its walls, and become ever stronger and more representative of this Ireland of Ours.
This pilgrimage of yours, imposing in its numbers, remarkable in its membership, and led by the very head of the State, his Excellency, Mr. Cosgrave, whom We are glad to meet in this, the house of the common Father of Christendom, the worthy representative and worthy governor of a truly pious and Catholic people, this devout Catholic, who not only fittingly represents the faith and piety of his people, but furnishes in his own person an example which is all the finer because of the high position of him who gives it — this pilgrimage of yours, conducted by so many Bishops as to give the happy impression of being a sort of National Council — this pilgrimage of yours in which We notice such a fine representation of the clergy of Ireland, both secular and regular, those of advanced years, and those ripening under Our own eyes and near to Our own heart in this beloved Irish College of Ours, the hope of your people and hierarchy, and Our own cherished hope as well — this pilgrimage of yours in which We see passing before Us in review the representatives of all classes and all conditions — truly this fine pilgrimage, in a unique way, enables Us to imagine that all Ireland, fully and completely represented, is gathered in Our presence, and is kneeling at Our feet.
How soothing is this pilgrimage to Our eyes, how pleasing to Our ears, no tongue of man can tell: for Our heart overflows when We think of what you represent in such a magnificent way — that Ireland of yours, the Island of Saints, as it has been splendidly entitled in days of old, the Island of Martyrs, as it may also be called, the Island of Apostles, the Island of Missionaries.
How appropriate are these titles is shown by the long, the wonderfully long, list of your Irish Saints, the many names that adorn your Martyrologies, the many Apostles you have bestowed on Europe, the many too, that you have given to Italy, that Italy which herself has sent Apostles all over Europe, Italy which is the seat of the Apostolic See. What St. Patrick did for Ireland, has been done by Columbanus in Italy, by your St. Gaul in Switzerland, and by countless others of your Saints in many another land — and this, too, in benighted days, when to be Apostles meant also to be pioneers of civilization to lands and peoples, custodians of the flickering sparks of classic literature, which had been almost extinguished by Goth and Vandal. And in more recent times, today even, see the countless missionaries whom Ireland has given to the propagation of the Faith — if you want to see the proof of this you have but to visit the Missionary Exhibition which We have been enabled to prepare for your inspection.
These glorious achievements, these brilliant pages of history, are recalled to Our mind, and made vivid by your presence; and therefore, is Our pleasure at your visit so keen, so tender, so peculiarly paternal.
We congratulate you then not only on the glories of the past, of which you are justly proud, but also on those which have been added to these by yourselves. Right well do We know, from what We have heard, and from what We have read, from the reports of your Bishops, and from a thousand other sources, how lively is the faith that throbs in your dear country, and how deep the piety, how sincere the practice of religion by which your hearths are sanctified, how intense your devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, how frequent your reception of Holy Communion, how loyal your attachment to the Holy See, to the ancient Mother Church of Rome, how deep and how characteristic your filial reverence towards the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ, the Successor of St. Peter.
Your very presence is the most eloquent expression, the strongest and most impressive confirmation of all this, especially when one calls to mind the long journey you have had to make to reach the city of Rome, coming as you have come, not from the gates of the city nor from the confines of Italy, but from distant Ireland, with all the fatigues, discomfort, and inconvenience that usually attend such a journey. All this you have serenely faced; and the filial piety with which you responded to the call to Rome is an eloquent testimony to the sentiments that animate your hearts, as eloquent as is that rendered by the devout and reverent way in which you have visited the Basilicas, and thereby shared in that holy rivalry of fervour which the whole Catholic world has brought, and will continue to bring, to the city of Rome, in this year of benediction.
It is, therefore, Our most ardent prayer that your pilgrimage to Rome and your stay in the holy city may be crowned with all consolations, grace, and spiritual favour, and that thus the Holy Year may be to each of you what it is really meant to be, a year of sanctification.
May each and all of you who have come to the heart of the great Roman Mother, to the home of the common Father, in the spirit of lively faith, hope and charity, return to your dear land, to your cities and homesteads, better men and better women, holier than ever, more fervent than ever, more pious than ever, more devout than ever, and may the Sacred Heart, which is already so well pleased, be better pleased than ever, and bless you abundantly, as We too, impart Our blessing.
With Our whole heart, then, do We bestow on you the Apostolic Benediction, which you have come to beg of your loving Father, as the crowning grace of your holy Jubilee; and as such do We grant it, for the sanctification and salvation of your souls. Those who are near and dear to you do We likewise bless — your families, your homes, your relatives, your children, the aged and sick and infirm, who have had to stay at home, these latter particularly. Bring them Our blessing, and tell them of Our heartfelt sympathy and encouragement. Earnestly, too, do We desire to bless the priests here present, those special representatives of the whole Irish clergy, secular and regular. In blessing each one of these good priests, the Father of his flock, We feel that We are blessing one whole family, We feel that We are blessing all those who go to them for spiritual food, We feel that we are blessing all the good works through which each of them carries out his sacred mission.
In a still more special and privileged way We bless those dear ecclesiastical students, these chosen aspirants to the sanctuary, the priests of tomorrow, your own hope, O beloved children of Ireland, the hope, too, of your hierarchy and of the whole Church. May this blessing of Ours help them to correspond more and more generously with that very special grace which is leading them on towards the respect and reverence of their people.
More specially still do we bless the Bishops here present, and with them the whole Irish hierarchy whom they worthily represent; and in blessing their sacred persons We know that We are also blessing their churches, their dioceses, their priests, and their people.
Finally, We send our blessing to all Ireland, with its past as replete with glory as with martyrdom and suffering, all Ireland with its present so felicitously pacified and tranquil, all Ireland with its great future, which cannot fail where faith is strong, piety lively, the Christian life operative, and therefore, surely blessed by the God of peoples and nations. All Ireland, then, all that dear and well-beloved Ireland, do We bless when We bless this its head, this its President, here present, and its whole Government.