The visit of the relics of Saint Anthony of Padua to Ireland was met with overwhelming support from the faithful. Over the last nine days, the relics visited several religious sites across the island of Ireland. Devotees turned out in their thousands to welcome the Saint of lost things, a 13th century friar who was one of the earliest members of the Franciscan Order founded by Saint Francis in 1209.
Arriving on Thursday 9 June to Saint Mary’s Parish, Cahir, in the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore, the popularity of Saint Anthony was clear from the beginning with between 14,000 and 15,000 coming to the church to welcome the relics. Father Gerry Langford, Parish Priest of Saint Mary’s Parish, remarked that the visit brought the community together and was delighted to see so many people from across Ireland, with some travelling all the way from Northern Ireland to venerate the relics of Saint Anthony.
Numbers remained high as the relics continued on their way. Estimates of up to 15,000 people came to Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Killarney, the second location visited by the relics.
On Saturday 11 June, the relics of Saint Anthony of Padua were received in Knock Basilica, coinciding with a pilgrimage by the Polish community in Ireland. Archbishop Michael Neary, Archbishop of Tuam, welcomed the relics, as well of the thousands attending to venerate the Saint, noting that Saint Anthony of Padua had always been popular: “Wherever he went, crowds flocked to hear him”. He expressed hope that the visit of the relics of Saint Anthony to Ireland will help people to rediscover their faith: “Saint Anthony always had this goal in mind – namely to bring people to God.”
Approximately 8,000 people came to Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral on 13 June, the Feast Day of Saint Anthony, to venerate the two relics of the saint which were on display.
The relics of Saint Anthony also visited Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Sligo, Saint Mel’s Cathedral in Longford and Saint Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry, with thousands of devotees gathering in prayer to welcome them.
The final visit of the relics of Saint Anthony of Padua was to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in the Archdiocese of Armagh on Thursday 16 June. Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh, celebrated a special Mass of welcome for the relics. Speaking to the large crowd gathered for the Mass and to venerate the Saint, Archbishop Eamon said, “I’ve thought a lot this week about what I might ask Saint Anthony on the visit of his relics to our Cathedral and to Ireland. I’ve decided to ask his help that many people in Ireland may rediscover the gifts of faith, hope and love, especially those who feel they have lost these powerful Christian virtues … Finding faith again is not as difficult as it may sound, because even if we have been lukewarm or uncommitted to the friendship, God never leaves us, God our Father is right there beside us, waiting patiently for our return. So Saint Anthony, help us to find our faith again.”
The relics departed the Cathedral in Armagh on Friday afternoon and will now visit Scotland and England.