Friday, December 30, 2016

'Papal visit to Ireland will inspire us and turn around negativity towards Church' highest-ranking Irishman in the Vatican, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, believes Pope Francis's visit to Ireland in 2018 will turn around some of the negativity across the country towards the Catholic Church.

The 69-year-old former bishop of Dallas, who was elevated to the cardinalate in November, said: "I think Pope Francis will change things; I think people will see his authenticity. He is clearly a man of God and he will attract people to think in those terms again. He is a person who inspires all of us to do something good for the church and for people," added the Dublin-born prelate, who was speaking from Rome.
Pope Francis has chosen Ireland for the hosting of the World Meeting of Families in 2018, having just passed a referendum on marriage equality and amid calls for change to the country's abortion laws.
Cardinal Farrell, who now heads up the Vatican's new Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, said: "I don't think Ireland is any more secular than most of northern Europe, so Pope Francis clearly understands the situation in Ireland and that's the challenge he wishes to accept.

"I think the whole question of family life is also very dear to Irish people - even today in the changing environment of the world and of Ireland. Family life is an important part of the culture of Ireland. 
"I think that is what Pope Francis wishes to convey to the people of Ireland by having this world gathering of families."

When Pope Francis called Cardinal Farrell on the telephone last May to offer him the role of Prefect of the new Department for Laity, Family and Life, the Cardinal said he was "just completely shocked". 
"He called me on the telephone and started to talk to me about coming to Rome to set up this new dicastery. I didn't know what to say or how to respond," he said. 

"I had spent most of my life involved in promoting laity within dioceses and within my own diocese in Dallas in Texas. From that to then come to Rome was a complete surprise. You can't imagine how shocked I was."
The Drimnagh-born prelate travelled to Rome to meet Pope Francis and tried to convince him not to appoint him, saying he was too old for the job. 

"He was very welcoming to me, very caring about it and he understood what it was like to leave a diocese - to leave where you had worked for most of your life. At 69 years of age I didn't think of moving anywhere. I kept telling him that I was too old for the job, but he kept reminding me that he was 75 years old when he was elected Pope and he had to leave Argentina. 
"We had a conversation for about an hour and a half and the rest is history. Here I am."

Cardinal Farrell's older brother, Bishop Brian Farrell (72), also works for the Vatican as Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in Rome. This is the first time the two have worked together in the same country since ordination. 
"It is very unusual that there would be two brothers working within the Vatican at the same time. I don't know of any other two brothers that are in Rome at the moment who are both bishops," he said.

His younger brothers Eamon and Patrick both live in Dublin. 
Cardinal Farrell also criticised opponents of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis's document on the family, for closing their minds to "certain nuances that exist in the life of people".

Four cardinals recently revealed they had written to Pope Francis asking him to clarify the "uncertainty, confusion, and disorientation among many of the faithful", which they said Amoris Laetitia had caused.

But Cardinal Farrell, who has consistently defended the Pope's apostolic exhortation against conservative opponents, said the document's critics wished the world were "more perfect than it truly is".
Asked if Pope Francis has made enemies, Cardinal Farrell admitted that it "could be a correct observation". 

Of those who are opposed to the Pope, he said: "People have their own point of view and vision and their own misunderstandings."

He added that he had "never known a document in the Catholic Church where there wasn't some criticism by some people".
"It doesn't surprise me in the least that there would be differences of opinion - there are differences of opinion as to which way you say the Hail Mary; there are differences of opinion as to how we celebrate the Mass and which language we use," he said.

Finally, Cardinal Farrell appealed this Christmas for compassion, kindness, understanding and mercy for "all of our brothers and sisters, no matter who they are, or where they come from, or what language they speak". He said these were the greatest gifts people could give each other for Christmas. 

"Christmas is a time for us all to open up our hearts to those who are closest to us. So often we go through life bearing a grudge. 
"Let us remember that we are all human beings, we are all the same flesh and blood and we're all created by the same God," he said. 

"We are brothers and sisters and we should treat each other as such. I think that is the greatest gift we can give to each other." 
Describing Christmas as "a time for family life", the Cardinal said it was also a time when we have to look also at why we celebrate Christmas. 

"It was not just an historical event in our Church; God wished to be a part of our lives and our existence," he added.

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