The man described as the ‘most important person ever to visit Ballybrit Racecourse’ will be remembered with fondness there on Sunday at a special thanksgiving Mass at noon.
The event will mark the canonisation of Pope John Paul 11 whose visit here on September 30 1979 was one of the most memorable moments in Galway’s history. More than a quarter of a million people attended the papal visit.
The concelebrated Mass which will be led by Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh, Martin Drennan, and the bishops of the western province, will celebrate both the canonisation of Pope John Paul 11 and Pope John XX111 in Rome on Sunday.
The local celebration is being hosted jointly by the Galway diocese and Galway Race Committee.
During the morning edited highlights of the canonisation ceremony will be screened outdoors at the racecourse. The Mass of thanksgiving will take place at midday when the names St John Paul II and St John XXIII will be invoked in the eucharistic prayer.
Bishop Drennan, who is inviting people to attend the event, says Pope John Paul 11’s visit to Galway and his celebration of Mass at Ballybrit is still “fondly remembered”.
Looking forward to the canonisation celebrations at Ballybrit, racecourse manager John Maloney, says he is delighted that the “most important person ever” to visit Ballybrit, Pope John Paul II, is to be canonised by his Holiness Pope Francis on Sunday.
Fr Michael Reilly, the parish priest of Castlegar, says it is a “privilege” for the parish of Castlegar to have a special connection with the canonisation of Pope John Paul 11.
“On 27th of April, the parish of Castlegar will celebrate that rare privilege and give thanks for that blessing.”
Many people who attended the Galway rally in 1979 are looking forward to Pope John Paul’s canonisation, says Fr Sean McHugh. “They will return to Ballybrit in his honour on 27th of April. Preparations are under way to ensure that the event will be memorable and worthwhile.”
Prior to the canonisations, the Catholic Communications Office has created a special web feature which includes a link to some of the audio recordings from Pope John Paul II’s visit to Ireland in 1979. The feature (available at www.catholicbishops.ie ) includes background information on the two new saints in addition to information about special events which are happening across Ireland to commemorate this special event.
It is estimated that 280,000 people flocked to Galway racecourse for the the papal visit in 1979. There were 77 concelebrants at the Mass, 200,000 people received Holy Communion (800 priests distributed it ) and there were 4,000 stewards helping out on the day.
In his homily Pope John Paul II, who died on April 2 2005, made his famous pronouncement: “Young people of Ireland I love you.”