Bishop Donal Murray – Pastoral Letter to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the visit of Pope John Paul II to Ireland

29 Sep 2004





The Bishop of Limerick, Dr Donal Murray is marking the 25th anniversary of Pope John
Paul II’s visit to Limerick with the publication of a special pastoral letter. In this
pastoral letter Bishop Murray wonders how we can Live as God s people and asks the
question: Is God missing but not missed?

In Limerick, Pope John Paul spoke of that special vocation that lay people have in the
church to express the Gospel in the world in which they live and work. According to
Bishop Murray this is a world in which the Gospel has never been before and we must
find for ourselves what it means to live as God s people in our time.

Bishop Murray continues, The years since 1979 have brought many changes and many
unanticipated developments, both good and bad. In some of those years we experienced
the bleakness of unemployment and emigration and in others we saw the benefits and
possibilities of the Celtic Tiger. We have seen Ireland playing a confident role in
the world of international politics, of development and of culture; we have also seen
the scandals and betrayals which sapped our trust. We have seen cruel disappointments
and hopeful moments on the road to peace in our island. The challenge put to us by
Pope John Paul in Limerick 25 years ago still needs to be faced.

Addressing the issue of religion in our lives and in life of society Bishop Murray said,
we are faced not with a state atheism but with the false and destructive notion that
religion is a purely private matter. Bishop Murray recognises in his pastoral letter
that Ireland is multi-cultural and multi-faith in a way that was not the case in the past.
Bishop Murray also believes that the inspiration that makes people good citizens comes
from deep convictions, usually religious convictions, about what life means and what its
purpose is. Bishop Murray asks the question How can it be that societies which pride
themselves on their pluralism and tolerance tend to drive deeply held beliefs out of
public discourse into the private sphere? He goes on to state that, It sometimes seems
that religious belief is tolerated provided it does not have any influence on the political
stance that people adopt!

Bishop Murray also refers to the Pope s invitation in Limerick that we keep in touch with
our roots . He reflects on the loneliness and rootlessness that can arise in modern life
where we loose our sense of community and we have no where to be ourselves. According to
Bishop Murray, we need to belong to groups which are primarily communities if we are to
flourish as human beings.

The Bishop goes on to reflect on the pressures on family life and how we need to support
the family the most basic community. In Limerick Pope John Paul said that,
the future of the Church, the future of humanity depend in great part on parents and on
the family life they build in their homes. Bishop Murray asks in this pastoral What can
we positively do to enrich family life?

In relation to vocations Bishop Murray suggests that, we should not regard a continuing
decline in numbers of people who dedicate their lives to God as inevitable, nor should
we evade the questions it asks us about our Christian living. The family is meant to be
the primary place where vocations are nurtured. Indeed nurturing vocations is the task
of the whole Christian community. Bishop Murray has found that young people do not feel
able to speak to their contemporaries or to others in the community about the possibility
that they might have a vocation. Bishop Murray asks, is this not a symptom of a community
where the deeper questions are marginalized and where it is not easy for heart to speak
to heart?

Bishop Murray concludes his pastoral by summing up the message of Pope John Paul in Limerick
25 years ago. The message is one for all of us and it is a call to live as God s people.


1. Pope John Paul II visited Ireland on 29th, 30th September and 1st October, 1979.
Ireland was the third visit of his Pontificate. The Holy Father’s first visit was to
the Dominican Republic, Mexico and the Bahamas, his second visit was to Poland and his
hird visit was to Ireland and the United States. The full itinerary of the Irish visit,
along with audio links to the Pope’s 1979 homilies and speeches in Ireland, is available

2. The full text of Bishop Murrays pastoral is available:
In all Limerick churches;
from the Diocesan Offices at 66 O Connell Street;
Limerick Diocesan Website at:

3. The Prayer from commemorative bookmark has been published as a memento of this 25th
anniversary and was written by Bishop Donal Murray.

God our Creator, Lord of history,
we thank you for the generations
that have gone before us in Ireland
May we be true
to the heritage of faith they have left us.
Ever present God,
you are always near.
Inspire us to live in your presence,
bringing the Gospel of your Son
into our work, our neighbourhoods
and our recreation.
God of love,
you are one with the Son
and the Holy Spirit.
Draw us ever closer to you.
Help us grow in love for all your children,
weak and strong, sick and healthy,
young and old, acquaintance and stranger,
and to respect them as your children
from the moment you call them into life
until the moment you call them home to you.
God of the Covenant,
you have committed yourself to your people
in a love which is faithful and unshakeable.
May our families reflect your faithful love.
May our homes be schools of faith.
Be with families that are struggling
or heavily burdened
and give them strength and peace.
Through the prayers of Mary,
Sun of the Irish race ,
May we go out from our homes,
as Jesus did from Nazareth
to continue his work.
God whose word calls each person,
may our community nurture
the vocation of everyone.
May we respond willingly to our mission
of spreading the Gospel of your Son,
and may many of our members hear
and answer the call to priesthood
and religious life.

God who called Pope John Paul
to be shepherd of your people
we give thanks for his visit to our diocese.
Strengthen him in guiding the Church
to live as your people,
in communion with you and with one another.
We make this prayer through Christ our Lord.
Dia agus Muire leis agus linn go deo.

Further information:

Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)