Bishop Colm O’Reilly remarks at the Lansboro Mass of Thanksgiving for Father Joseph Mullooly

10 Jun 2007

10th June 2007

Bishop Colm O’Reilly remarks at the Mass of Thanksgiving for the life and work of Father Joseph Mullooly 0P


“It is my prayer today that the example of this man’s life and work will be an inspiration to generous young people who can also bring honour to the Church through lives of service” – Bishop Colm O’Reilly

Speaking today at the Mass of Thanksgiving in St Mary’s Church in Lanesboro, Co Longford, the Bishop of Ardagh & Clonmacnoise, Bishop Colm O’Reilly said:

“It is deeply moving to be able to stand in the course of one week in two sacred places which frame the life of one of Ireland’s most renowned priests, Father Joseph Mullooly O.P. Here in St Mary’s Church in Lanesboro, Co Longford, we have gathered today to remember this man in this Church which was built in 1834 and where for six years he would have come for Sunday Mass before he left for a life as a Dominican in Italy.

“A week ago some of us were privileged to gather in the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome, that other sacred place to which Fr Mullooly made a massive contribution through his outstanding work by discovery of ancient treasures of the Church lost for many centuries. In the forty years between his leaving Ireland and his death in 1880 he left a priceless legacy to his Dominican Order and to the Church.

“Like many Irish men and women this son of Gilbert Mullooly and Brigid Dowd of Lehery in this Parish of Rathcline left Ireland with little but an ardent faith and strong hope. It is alleged that in his pocket he had “half a crown given to him by his father”. How he coped with the long journey to Italy and the initial stresses and strains of living in a strange land we shall never know. What we do know is that he courageously followed his call to the Dominican Order and lived his life in troubled times in Rome.

“While the discovery of the fourth century Basilica of San Clemente will always be seen as the great achievement of his life there was much more to it than that. Fr Mullooly secured the position of the Irish Dominicans as guardians of San Clemente and gave it a status as a centre of learning which it has never lost. He was also brave in defence of the precious buildings entrusted to him and risked his life in their defence.

“150 years ago this self-taught archaeologist, who played a major role in the development of Christian archaeology, made his first great discovery. It was so significant that it would bring the Pope of the day, Pius IX, five times to see the wonder of the ancient treasures of art and architecture which his work revealed. It was not only the Pope who came. Many of the crowned monarchs of Europe were pleased to meet this man and see for themselves the wonderful ancient frescoes which had been hidden, some for as long as fourteen hundred years.

“Today we give thanks for the remarkable man who grew up in humble surroundings and at a time of great poverty in his native land. It is my prayer today that the example of this man’s life and work will be an inspiration to generous young people who can also bring honour to the Church through lives of service. Fr Joseph Mullooly deserves to be remembered. The fact that An Post will issue a stamp which will acknowledge his work later in the year will help to bring his name and work to wider attention.”

Notes to Editors

The 150th anniversary of the Longford celebrations of Father Joseph Mullooly’s excavations in the Basilica of St Clemente in Rome took place over this weekend on the 8, 9 and 10 June in Lanesboro, Co Longford:

· Friday 8 June: Starting at 20:30 in the Parish Hall in Lanesboro the opening of this celebratory weekend involved an exhibition on the life of Fr Mullooly, displaying relevant artifacts and the launch of a commemorative booklet. The Shannonside Heritage Group is organizing this exhibition.
· Saturday 9 June: At 15:00 a plaque to mark the birthplace of Fr Joseph Mullooly, was unveiled at Lehery in the parish of Rathcline (less than one km from Lanesboro), by the Bishop of Ardagh & Clonmacnoise, Bishop Colm O’Reilly. Mr Larry Leavy, from Lanesboro, handcrafted this commemorative plaque from granite. At 20:30 a lecture on the life and times of Fr Mullooly was delivered by Fr Paul Lawlor OP.
· Sunday 10 June: A Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated at 11:30 in St Mary’s Church, Lanesboro, by Bishop O’Reilly and the Dominican Provincial, Fr Pat Lucey OP. This Mass included a Dominican chant.

Website and An Post stamp

As part of this commemoration is hosting a special feature on Fr Mullooly, while separately An Post intends to launch a stamp in Fr Mullooly’s honour later in the year.

If you require a photograph of Bishop Colm O’Reilly and/or an image of Fr Mullooly, please contact the Catholic Communications Office. The following websites may also be of use, and


Fr Mullooly, a Dominican priest, was originally from the parish of Rathcline in Co Longford. 150 years ago in 1857, as Prior of the Basilica of St Clemente in Rome, Fr Mullooly began excavations under the present Basilica, uncovering in the process not only the original, fourth century Basilica directly underneath, but also at still lower level, the remains of an earlier, first century building. Later excavations (1912-1914) by Fr Louis Nolan, showed that underneath this third layer of buildings there was a fourth stratum that contained buildings destroyed by the fire of Nero in 64AD.

The Basilica of St Clemente in Rome is named after Pope St Clement the third successor of St Peter. The adjoining friary of St Clemente is the house of the Irish Dominican Province since 1677. As part of their ad limina pilgrimage to Rome in October 2006, the Bishops of Ireland visited the friary and explored the various levels of the Basilica.

Further information:
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)