22 August 2018, The Tablet

Only the people can now save the Church in Ireland

The Pope in Ireland

Only the people can now save the Church in Ireland

Huge crowds welcomed John Paul II to Ireland in 1979


I first encountered the Pope’s Children when I was a student in the United States at Providence College in Rhode Island, a liberal arts college run by Dominican friars. I was on the athletics team, and the coach was Irish. He had recruited the best athletes he could from Ireland to run for Providence, so they were my teammates.

“The Pope’s Children” is a nickname used in Ireland for those born around the time of Pope John Paul II’s visit to Ireland in 1979. As an American-born Baptist, I had scant knowledge of Irish Catholicism. I had a vague notion that Irish Catholics were stereotypically devout. But although there was a quiet faith among some of my teammates, there was more doubt, scepticism and even cynicism about religion than I had expected.

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