30 years today since Pope JPII kissed our soil

Hard to believe it but it’s true! 29th September, 1979. The recently elected Polish Pope arrived in Ireland to a tumultuous welcome.

It was a Saturday. I has spent the second half of Friday wandering in Dublin waiting for the Dept of Foreign Affairs to issue me with a passport which I need to travel to Spain on Sunday to begin a two-year programme of study in a Spanish Seminary. (Bishop Lucey had told me the previous Wednesday where I was headed!!)

On Friday night, I got a bed in Maynooth College and was loaded onto a fleet of double-decker buses early the following morning with hundreds of 18-20-something student priests who had been marshalled to distribute Holy Communion at the Mass in the Phoenix Park.

I remember the long wait, the sitting and rising again when a flurry of rumbles from way down the park seemed to suggest that something was about tho happen. We were corralled in blocks with rope. The wise spectators in nearby quadrants, like the wise virgins on the Gospel parable, had come prepared with flasks, sandwiches and cardboard periscopes.

After numerous false alarms every time a chopper hovered over,  the Aer Lingus plane carrying Pope John Paul II floated out of the sky and across the clouds over the Phoenix Park. The roaring welcome silenced the engines of the jet