Bishop McKeown to celebrate canonisation of popes

Pope John Paul II (left) and Pope John XXIII
Pope John Paul II (left) and Pope John XXIII

Newly installed Bishop of Derry Dr. Donal McKeown will be the main celebrant for a Mass of Celebration to mark the Canonisation of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII on Sunday April 27 at 3pm in St Eugene’s Cathedral Derry.

On the same day in Rome, Pope Francis will declare Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII saints.

For those unable to make it to Rome the Diocesan Mass will be an opportunity closer to home to gather people to celebrate the life and legacy of the former popes.

Reflecting on Pope John Paul II’s visit to Ireland in 1979 Derry natives Richard Moore and Eugene Dunn were privileged to take part in the Youth Mass in Ballybrit Race Course in Galway back in 1979.

Eugene said:

“It was a huge privilege and honour to be chosen to represent the youth of Ireland at that Mass. There was something very special about Pope John Paul II, I felt even then he was saintly. He had a profound impact on me everyone present and that impact continued throughout his papacy, when you look at his example around forgiveness and choosing to meet the man who shot him you see what kind of man he was. For me he was a pope for all people and I think it is brilliant he will be canonised a saint.”

Richard Moore founder of the international charity Children in Crossfire recalled the 1979 experience with great emotion.

He said: “I was 18 years-old when I went to Galway, it was amazing to be part of the group from the Derry Diocese, but to be chosen as a victim of the Troubles, as a person with a disability and as a young person to actually go meet Pope John Paul II was just unbelievable. I remember walking up to the top of the altar, hearing the cheer from the Derry crowd in the distance and Pope John Paul II giving me a hug, the stillness of that moment was surreal and that experience has sustained me throughout my life, it’s helped my faith and it’s helped me so much over the years. I still have the rosary beads he gave me that day and in later years I realise even more the immense privilege that day was for me.”

Both Richard and Eugene presented gifts to Pope John Paul II at that Youth Mass in 1979 and they will be gift bearers once more at this special diocesan mass on April 27.

There is a huge link with Pope John Paul II and the Pope John Paul II youth awards that first started in Derry in 2006. To date over 10,000 young people have got involved in their local parish and church as a result of this faith based award. Leading the way the Derry Diocese have had over 2000 teenagers complete this award. With this in mind young people participating in the award from the 51 parishes in the diocese will play a significant part in this unique ceremony.

Parishioners and young people alike are invited to attend the mass.

Music will be provided by Long Tower Folk Group and St Mary’s College Girls Choir. Everyone is welcome. For more details about the mass contact the Diocesan Catechetical Centre 028 7126 4087 or Email: