Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Pope JPII 'might have returned'

The former bishop of Cloyne John Magee said Pope John Paul II's 'unpredictable' nature could have seen him make a return papal visit

Pope John Paul II's "unpredictable" nature could have seen him make a return papal visit in 1981 for the beatification of Matt Talbot, state papers have revealed.

John Magee, the former bishop of Cloyne and an aide to three popes, confided in an Irish diplomat that there was a possibility the pontiff would make the extraordinary move.

In a letter to the Department of Foreign Affairs at Iveagh House, embassy officer Frank Coffey relayed the thinking in the Vatican in March 1981.

"Fr Magee thinks it is not inconceivable that if and when Matt Talbot is beatified, the Holy Father may decide to have the ceremony in Dublin," he wrote.

On a separate letter he said that such a beatification could be linked to the 90th anniversary of the 1891 Rerum Novarum, an open letter from Pope Leo XIII addressing the condition of the working classes.

"Pope John Paul has also thought that the beatification of Matt Talbot would be a particularly apposite way to mark the anniversary," he wrote.

"However, it does not appear that Matt Talbot's cause has advanced sufficiently for this to be done. Nonetheless, bearing in mind the present Pontiff's 'unpredictability' we cannot rule out his taking some extraordinary measures to permit beatification this year."

Talbot, known as Venerable Matt Talbot, pledged sobriety aged 28 and a life of prayer, fasting and service, never taking credit and trying to model himself on the sixth century Irish monks. He was a member of the Transport and General Workers Union and worked in a lumber yard in Dublin docks.

Talbot is in the second stage of becoming a saint being known as Venerable. His beatification is still pending.

The detail was contained in files on plans for the Pope's visit to Ireland under the code 2012/58/3.

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