Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland singing trio The Priests 'hugely honoured' to sing for Pope

The Priests to perform in Dublin for Pontiff's visit take to the stage at Croke Park

By Gillian Halliday

Famous Northern Ireland singing trio The Priests are "hugely honoured" to perform for Pope Francis in front of an audience of 75,000 people in Dublin's Croke Park.

The Very Reverend Eugene O'Hagan yesterday confirmed that he will be taking to the stage at the Festival of Families concert in the Pontiff's honour, alongside his singing brother Fr Martin O'Hagan and their friend, Fr David Delargy, on August 25.

The group is one of a number of local artists - including 36-year-old Lisburn soul singer Dana Masters - who will join Donegal crooner Daniel O'Donnell, the River Dance troupe and country star Nathan Carter on the line-up of 2,000 performers participating in the two-hour music event.

Families from 116 counties have been invited to attend the historic occasion.

And Fr O'Hagan, who is also Vicar-General of the Diocese of Down and Connor, said it would be a momentous occasion for the trio - who have also performed in the past for Prince Charles.

"The eyes of the world will be watching Dublin, eagerly awaiting what words of encouragement and advice the Holy Father will say," he said. "It will be among the biggest events we've ever done. It is certainly a momentous occasion and a bit more special as it will be on our own island, on home turf. I will be a bit nervous knowing that there will be all these cameras there, picking it up and sending it across the globe."

Previously, The Priests shared the stage at London's Hyde Park with Pope Benedict XVI during his 2010 visit to the UK.

This occasion though will be particularly special for them - both as performers and as priests - added Fr O'Hagan, as it will mark the first time the Republic has welcomed the head of the Catholic Church since Pope John Paul II's visit in 1979.

"I remember being there but this will be a very different visit. Ireland is much more self-sufficient now," he added.

The cleric acknowledged that this Papal visit would likely bring the Republic's shifting attitudes on social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion to the fore again, but stressed that he expected Pope Francis to stay focused on the family theme.

"The Holy Father's message is always accessible, it's never too far removed from ordinary people, and it will resonate with us all in different ways - it will resonate with me as a priest - but it will be something that will be positive to all of us," he said.

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