The sound of bells ringing out from Saint Mel's Cathedral has returned to Longford Town.
The familiar sound was lost when the Cathedral, including the bells, were destroyed by fire early on Christmas Day 2009.
But now, as plan's progress to restore the Cathedral to its former glory, a new automated bell system has been installed.
The news was revealed this week by the Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise Bishop Colm O'Reilly in his annual Christmas message.
Speaking this week he said, “At the time of writing this Christmas message, bells have begun to ring from the bell tower of Saint Mel's Cathedral in Longford. For the people who live here in Longford the sound of bells, silenced by fire on Christmas Day last year, has been warmly welcomed.”
“When the bells first rang out last week people down below on the street broke on in applause. Very fittingly at this time shortly before Christmas the bells were like the good news announced from the heavens, like the voices of angles in Bethlehem, who proclaimed 'Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on earth to men who are God's friends.’”
Speaking of the great tradition the bells held for the town of Longford Bishop O'Reilly said, “In Irish tradition, bells have a great significance.”
“There is one old bell which is greatly venerated in Ireland namely the bell of Saint Patrick. Old tales about Saint Patrick claim that when he founded a church and put a priest or a Bishop in charge he gave him a bell as a kind of a symbol of his responsibility. If that be so then we can well imagine that Saint Mel got his bell from Patrick when he appointed him as Bishop here.”
“With this in mind, I welcome the return of the sound of bells coming from Saint Mel's Cathedral. Sadly old and precious bells were destroyed in the fire on Christmas Day 2009. These bells had an ancient history and survived troubled times. In a damaged state they will become a reminder in time to come of the trauma we have experienced in the fire of Christmas 2009.”