The Success of Silent protest against Pope’s visit in Ireland

If you read some reports of the visit to Ireland by Pope Francis  you perhaps get the impression that the visit was a resounding success. We have headlines such as …

The official website also announces ..


If you looked at some images then it looked crowded, but there is a slightly different story here.

How many actually turned up?

It turns out that vast numbers of people snapped up tickets when they became available, but had no intention of ever going. It was a silent protest. This was a very deliberate choice made by a grassroots protest movement. The Guardian reports on this …

Coll will not be using the tickets. “This is my protest, not to go,” she said. Instead, she will drive from her home in Limerick to Tuam, where a vigil will be held at the site of a mass grave discovered last year at a former Catholic church mother-and-baby home. It contained the remains of up to 800 infants.

Coll got the idea of applying but not using tickets for the mass on Sunday from Say Nope to the Pope, a campaign of “silent and peaceful protest” against his visit. The group’s Facebook page has about 9,000 supporters.

Michael Stewart, one of the organisers, said the idea resonated with people “because it’s an effective form of protest”.

“As Irish citizens, we were all entitled to a ticket to the papal mass if we wished. The taxpayer was funding this visit regardless of their faith, and that was the icing on the cake for many,” he said.

Half a million tickets were available to the public for the mass, with a further 45,000 for the papal visit to the Marian shrine in Knock.

“Why shouldn’t [people] claim their ticket and use it how they see fit?” Stewart said. “It seems that actively and deliberately not using their ticket was an appropriate option while we stand in solidarity with the excessive number of victims from this atrocious organisation.”

Indeed yes, if the state wants to fund and promote one specific religious belief, then citizens should indeed be wholly entitled to claim their state funded ticket and do with it as they please.

The Irish Sense of humour also prevails. Apparently a few managed to actually get tickets using the name Jesus Christ, and so you would think that might have perhaps tipped them off.

Why did they protest?

It should of course be well-known and obvious … .

Coll said the majority of people she knew were “very unhappy about the [pope’s] visit” and would not be taking part in events.

Many are angry about child sexual abuse and its covering up, the cruel treatment of vulnerable young women in the Magdalene laundries and the forced or coerced adoption of babies born to unmarried women.

“This is not an anti-religion thing, it’s not about disrespect for people’s beliefs or their right to practise any particular belief. It’s about people like myself who were raised as Catholics, who were practising Catholics, who suddenly went: ‘Hang on a second, these are terrible wrongs we’re hearing about.’ And we waited and we waited, and the church did nothing,” she said.

“There are no channels of protest within the church. The church is not interested in feedback. It’s not an organisation where you can fill in a questionnaire on its service. They do things their way and they’re really not interested in what you think about it.”

So How did it go, how many of the 500,000 turned up?

The vast majority of the 500,000 did not turn up. Crowd estimates are around the 130,000 or under mark. There is photographic evidence. You can see in the following pictures many empty green spaces as the pope delivers his Mass ..

To be wholly fair and accurate, the weather was not great, it rained so there is also the possibility that some simply decided not to go and get soaked. Interestingly enough, if it have been to a final for a sporting event, then generally a bit of rain tends not to deter the crowds. This is after all the green and pleasant land, rain is not exactly an unfamiliar or unusual occurrence, nor does it tend to deter when people are motivated.

The Icing on the Cake – The Letter

The real Cherry on the cake was the publication of a letter on the final day of his visit to Ireland by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. When confronted with this letter by journalists during his return flight, he point blank refused to answer …

“I will not say one word on this. I think the statement speaks for itself.”


Who is Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano?

He was the Vatican’s official diplomatic representative to the US from 2011 to 2016. Prior to that he served as Secretary General of the Vatican City Governatorate. In that previous role he discovered gross financial corruption within the Vatican that ended up costing them millions. When this was exposed to the media they refused to confirm the corruption and instead opted to refer to it as “instances of a lack of correctness”. Er … yes, I guess that’s another way of saying “corruption”.

He did not want the job as the Vatican’s representative in the US, they were in effect getting him out of the way. Being a good Catholic, he did as he was told.

In January 2016 he was officially retired.

If curious, you can read all about the above and more on his WikiPedia Page.

Vigano’s Bombshell letter

His letter issued on 25th August runs for 11 pages. – The full text is available here.

In essence he accuses Pope Francis of protecting an abuser despite being warned about him …

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, 77, who served as apostolic nuncio in Washington D.C. from 2011 to 2016, wrote that in the late 2000s, Benedict had “imposed on Cardinal McCarrick sanctions similar to those now imposed on him by Pope Francis” and that Viganò personally told Pope Francis about those sanctions in 2013.

Archbishop Viganò said in his written statement that Pope Francis “continued to cover” for McCarrick and not only did he “not take into account the sanctions that Pope Benedict had imposed on him” but also made McCarrick “his trusted counselor,”

In other words, the guy who stood in front of vast (depleted) crowds and promised that they had cleaned up their act is himself now accused of protecting a known abuser.

How true is this?

They can’t just not respond, and so in due course there will no doubt be a rebuttal.

What should we make of this?

It would appear that the Catholic Church has just started an internal civil war.

Don’t think of Viganò as the good guy here, he is an ultra-conservatitive (that’s basically a polite way of saying that he is a homophobic bigot). He is sticking the knife in because he feels that Pope Francis is way too lax. The official party line is that being gay is wrong, but they tend to turn a blind eye to gay priests. The ultra-conservatitives feel that this informal tolerance is the root cause of all the sexual abuse and that simply taking a hard line against them will solve all their problems.

It won’t because the world has moved on beyond such hard-core bigotry. A reversion back to a hard stance will only increase polarisation and also accelerate their demise.

Botton Line

The visit of Pope Francis to Ireland has been highly encouraging for the non-religious. It demonstrates that Catholicism has lost the grip it once held and that many are now beginning to see them for who they really are.

Further Reading

CNN: Aug 27th – ‘No more apologies’: Pope’s visit fails to soothe Irish fury over abuse

CNN: Aug 28th – The ‘coup’ against Pope Francis

Leave a Reply