Address of welcome by Dr John Fleming, Bishop of Killala at a civic reception given by Ballina Town Council to Dr Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland

08 Sep 2006



Embargoed until 5pm on Friday 8th September 2006





Your Worship, Your Grace, members of Ballina Town Council, fellow guests.

I welcome the honour conferred on Archbishop Brady by Ballina Town Council this
afternoon and I thank the Mayor and Council for making this occasion possible.

In my role as Bishop of Killala, as well as for personal reasons, I am particularly
happy to welcome the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland to the diocese
of Killala. Archbishop Brady and I worked together for eight years in the Irish College
Rome, from 1985 until 1993. During the first two years, while he was Vice-Rector of the
College I was Director of Formation. Then when he became Rector in 1987 he asked me to
become his Vice-Rector and we worked together for the following six years, until his
return to Ireland. I then succeeded him as Rector of the College until I exchanged my
home on the banks of the Tiber for one on the banks of the Moy. For this reason alone,
as a friend and colleague, it gives me particular pleasure to see him receive this civic
honour from Ballina Town Council.

In my role as the successor of St Muredach I am especially happy to welcome the successor
of St Patrick to North Mayo and West Sligo. Almost sixteen hundred years of tradition
links both of us with our predecessors, St Patrick and St Muredach. In a fast changing
world, where awareness of the past is so easily dismissed or relegated to obscurity I
believe that it is important for us to recognise our traditions and recall our roots.

The tradition of Patrick is important for us this evening on two counts; the centrality
of that tradition in Irelandand, secondly, its connection with this area. St Patrick is
said to have founded a church on a hill known as Ard-Macha in the year 445.AD. From there,
down through the later centuries of the first millennium, the pre-eminence of the tradition
of Patrick in Ireland was established. Known in history as the Paruchia Patricii, Armagh
gradually claimed the allegiance of a league of local churches throughout the country from
Armagh, in the north, to Ardpatrick, in my native county, in the south. All of these
churches claimed association with St Patrick, mainly through a local tradition which held
that he visited them personally. Side by side with this was the tradition of other saints,
such as Brigid of Kildare in the east, Ailbe of Emly in the south and Declan of Ardmore
in the south-east. Together they formed the basis for the organisation of the Church in
Ireland during the first millennium.

In the twelfth century, with the Synod of Rathbrassail, the system of organisation of
the Irish Church changed from that based on the monasteries to the diocesan system which
we still have. Central to that change was the Church of Patrick in Armagh. The pre-eminence
of that church was recognised then and continues to be acknowledged now. The Archbishop
of Armagh is the Primate of All Ireland and the President of the Irish Episcopal Conference.
He is the acknowledged leader of the Irish Church. Your Grace, the diocese of Killala
and, in particular, the town of Ballina is honoured, therefore, by your visit here this

This area of north Mayo has a unique association with your predecessor, St Patrick. In
his autobiography, The Confession, Patrick recalls a dream which he had when he was back
with his family in Britain. He describes it as follows: “ in a night vision I saw a man
coming as it were from Ireland. His name was Victorius and he carried many letters and
he gave me one of them. I read the heading “The Voice of the Irish”. As I began this
letter I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were
near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea, and they cried out as with
one voice: We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us” I was pierced
by a great emotion and could not read on and so I woke.”
Historian acknowledge that the wood of Foclut, which was located at Foghill, in the
present day parish of Lacken in this diocese, is the only place in Ireland mentioned
by St Patrick in his Confessions. The people who lived there in the fifth century,
obviously, made a deep impression on him. So much so that when he thought of Ireland
they came to his mind. Leigue cemetery is now the location of a church which he is
said to have founded on the outskirts of Ballina and St Patrick’s Well, which is nearby,
is also associated with him. From beside his church in Leigue, Croagh Patrick, which
you climbed recently, is clearly visible. In a very real sense, therefore, this area
was very important to him. And it was the memory of the people of this area that called
him back Ireland to convert the Irish, found his Church in Armagh and begin the noble
tradition of faith, of which we are the present heirs.

Your Grace, we appreciate the fact that you too responded to the call of the people of
this area to come and walk among us as we mark the Centenary of St Muredach’s College.
We are delighted to have you back in the land which made such an impression on your
predecessor, St Patrick, and we wish you well as you carry on in our age the ministry
of leadership in the Church which Patrick established in Ireland.


Further information:
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)
* Archbishop Brady will be in Ballina to perform the Official Opening of the Centenary
Celebrations of St Muredach’s College, Ballina, Co Mayo at 8.00pm tonight in the College
Assembly Hall. The Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Dr Seán Brady will
officiate at the ceremony which will incorporate the launch of ‘The History of the
College’ written by the late Canon Martin Halloran and the unveiling of a memorial
to The Sisters of Mercy who served at the college from 1923 until 1988.
* On Sunday 10th September at 3.00pm there will be a Concelebrated Mass in St Muredach’s
Cathedral, Ballina with His Excellency Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Nuncio
to Ireland, Most Rev John Kirby, Bishop of Clonfert, Most Rev Thomas Flynn, Bishop of
Achonry and Most Rev Thomas Finnegan, Retired Bishop of Killala. The Bishop of Killala,
Dr John Fleming will be the principal celebrant and will preach the homily. The current
President of the College, Fr Martin Barrett will be present along with former presidents
of the college. In attendance also will be priests and people from the Diocese of Killala.
* On Sunday 10th September at 6.00pm a tree-planting ceremony will be held in the grounds
of St Muredach’s College, Ballina, Co Mayo.  His Excellency Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto,
Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland will officiate.  
* Photographs of Archbishop Brady and Bishop Fleming are available on request from the
Catholic Communications Office.