Saturday, 4 June 2016



Heard the one about the fellow from Laois who was elected pope? Not many people have, which is perhaps remarkable in a country with a long tradition of loyalty to Rome and to things papal, at least until fairly recently.
It happened in the 6th century, AD 523 to be exact. And by coincidence this fellow’s name was also Benedict. This Laois-born Benedict was born inDurrow around 460 – about 30 years after the death of St Patrick. Okay, it wasn’t called Laois then. It wasn’t even called Queen’s County. But Durrow was on the way to being a place of some celebrity.

Benedict’s Durrow is not to be confused with Durrow in Co Offaly where the peripatetic and energetic St Columba founded his monastery. Some remains can be seen on the site, about four miles north of Tullamore.
Both place names, however, derive from the same Irish root – Daru – “The Place of Oaks”. Now, Durrow in present day Co Laois, has associations with another St “Columba” (later Abbot of Clonenagh and who died in 548). But he is not the St Columba of Durrow, Co Offaly and Iona (died 597). I know this is a bit confusing.
Anyway, our Benedict left Durrow at an early age to study under St Fintan (died 594) at Clonenagh, which is located just off the present N7 trunk road, about half way between Portlaoise and Mountrath. Later, he became a follower of the great saint of the west of Ireland, St Enda.
It is recorded in Colgan’s The Life of Saint Endeus that Enda, who died in 530, went to Rome in 522. He was accompanied by Benedict, then in his 60s, who had come to be acknowledged as a man of particular saintliness. On August 6th 523, while they were still in Rome the Pope – Hormisdas – died after a papacy that had lasted almost nine years.
The elders of the church (they hadn’t invented the title of cardinal yet) met to elect a successor. Hormisdas, from Campagna, had been a very successful pope, bringing the eastern and western churches together in harmony after the damaging Acacian Schism. Interestingly, he had been married and his son, Silverius, went on to follow his father into the job in due course.
But this is to get ahead of the story. Back to Benedict from Durrow.
Such was the reputation that Benedict had acquired for prayer and great sanctity while visiting Rome with St Enda, that he was nominated as pope five days after the death of Hormisdus. Initially, it seems, he agreed to accept the role, and proposed taking the name of Pupeus for his papacy. Preparations were put in train for his installation and messages were sent to the church leaders in other cities announcing the glad tidings.
However, it seems that he had not got his lines straight with Enda, who said he was going back to Galway. Benedict now started to get cold feet. He withdrew to pray and having done so announced to the elders that he would not take up the job and was withdrawing his consent, his would-be papacy having lasted just two days. The elders were naturally disappointed but they called another consistory and elected Pope John I on August 13th in his place. Enda and Benedict set off for Ireland. Whether Benedict returned to Clonenagh or continued to follow Enda we do not know.
John’s papacy lasted less than three years, until 526. Unhappily, the litany of popes does not contain Benedict’s name and the Catholic Encyclopediamerely records that John was elected after an interregnum of seven days.
Durrow is now bypassed by the Dublin-Cork motorway. But it is a pretty village, now officially a Heritage Town, and well worth a diversion. Castle Durrow is a fine hotel and there are good local pubs. Sheppard’s, facing the village green is one of the country’s leading auction houses for antiques and objects d’art .
But there is nothing to acknowledge the village’s most famous son – the only Irishman ever to be elected pope. The Durrow folk need to take a lead from their near neighbours in Moneygall who, after all, can only claim a US president.


  1. Dare I say it but there may possibly be another Irish contender for the papacy. A priest of the humble but historic diocese of Down and Connor has recently moved closer to Rome.
    He is a former Dean of the cathedral of that diocese but has recently moved in a south easterly direction and is now "attached" to the Metropolitan See of Westminster in London.
    He has recently been seen in full ecclesiastical regalia processing through London's West End giving rise to the rumour that he is enroute to the eternal city.
    However he would be well advised to take a lesson from the misfortune of another clergy "knight" with a penchant for fancy clerical garb. Cardinal Raymond Burke was recently unceremoniously dumped so that he could spend more time with his Maltese brethren. The humiliation of Burke was all the more intense because almost every cleric of every rank including the lowliest pastor in the USA have been laughing their asses off at the old clown's fall from grace!
    PP Southwark

  2. An unlisted Irishman (ok: celt) as pope?????

    Ha ha Greater chance of finding at rainbow's end a leprechaun along with his pot of gold, singing Molly Malone while doing handstands buck naked!!!!!!

    Nice try, +Pat.

    1. I'd pay to see that, haven't heard my song sung for a long time.

      Molly Malone

  3. The next Irish Pope? I wonder... it will be a dog-fight between wee Timo and big Shoogie, I suppose - a hung conclave!

    Big Lily from Prince Albert St will be needed to arbitrate and we all know where her loyalties lie.... LOL

  4. The Irish people were much better before there was any talk of Rome and its bishops and ways.

    1. Anonymous at 14:59 (June 5) - what a load of nonsense!!!

    2. Anonymous @ 16:59, so Rome and its bishops (this theocracy) HAVE been good for Ireland? Really? To use your own words: 'What a load of nonsense!!!'

  5. I agree with 14:59. I have to laugh when I hear Irish Catholics Going on about England's history of empire building and colonisation throughout the world.
    As any historian worth their salt will tell you the activities, often quite brutal, of the holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic church put England well into the shade.
    Well Read Newry

    1. "Well Read Newry" at 19:18, how's about becoming even more widely read and picking up a book I heard about on social media and downloaded onto Kindle?

      It's called "Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History", by Rodney Stark, a historian, I assure you, who is "worth his salt" and, by the way, not a Catholic.

      He will enlighten you about the "the activities, often quite brutal of the holy (sic) Roman Catholic and Apostolic church (sic)".

      You will learn that much of what you have been taught to think - and willingly sucked in - is anti-Catholic hate-propaganda, from dubious and poisonous sources, with vested interests in painting the Catholic Church in as bad a light as possible. Go on, "Well Read Newry" - challenge your prejudices, I dare you.

      As regards Ireland and the Catholic Church - 300 years of brutal persecutions and penalties could not severe Ireland from the See of Peter.

    2. Was it not more like 800 years - 21.16?
      Still - nice and very timely, truthful comment!

    3. 800 years of British occupation, Pip. 300 years of Penal Laws and persecution after England "de-Poped" and tried to force its new religion on Ireland - without success.

    4. 21:16, you really believe the drivel you've typed, don't you? There were, of course, no Crusades, launched at the instigation and with the blessing of successive popes. There were no persecutions of Jews and heretics, with
      the blessing (and sometimes active support) of the Church at national
      levels. There was no Papal Inquisition, I suppose, and its various roving tribunals. And the Church never supported the use of capital direct contravention of Jesus' teaching that we must love our enemies. And I suppose there was no sexual abuse of children by
      Catholic priests, no cover up of this abuse, all the way up to the papacy, to
      protect clerics because it was believed they were ontologically superior to the laity and that the interests of these children could therefore be
      sacrificed to preserve the good name of the priesthood. I could go on and on. But people like you, clergy worshippers, wouldn't listen, would you?

    5. I have absolutely no doubt, "Magna Carta", that you could go on and on.

      Read that book, I am talking about, "Bearing False Witness", by Rodney Stark (a Protestant). You might get your eyes opened - even just a tad. Your copper-fastened prejudices might just get loosened a little.

      Oh, and by the way, GET OVER YOURSELF.

    6. 10:29, I struck a nerve, didn't I? Hence your tetchy reply.

      As you correctly pointed out, I could indeed go on and on...with factual
      historical evidence, not the dishonest, anecdotal nonsense served up by
      your preferred (and only?) historical source.

      Have you heard of the phrase 'confirmation bias'? It's a form of wilful intellectual blindness, such as you have shown, and it applies to people
      who seek out 'evidence' (the kind provided by your preferred historian) that
      merely confirms their prejudice, in your case that the 'Catholic Church' has unfairly (and by bigoted Prods, Jews, anti-clericalists, and God-knows-who- else), been cruelly maligned in history.

      If I am to 'get over myself', then you need to get a grip of yourself and get out and about a bit more in terms of historical reading material. Seriously,
      is that book the only one you've read on the meaner side of 'Catholic
      Church history'? Are you aware of how the Catholic priest-historian, Thomas Bokenkotter, referred to the some five-hundred year period in
      which the Papal Inquisition alone operated? He described it as 'a dark period' (and for 'dark' read 'evil').

    7. Read the book, Magna Carter and come back to us. it's a bit rich you talking about having "struck a nerve" - you being a whole jingling and jangling bundle of them. LOL.

    8. 17:27, you probably don't know this (Why would you? You don't know much else), but Prof. Rodney Stark isn't a professional historian (And boy, does it show!); he's a sociologist. LOL Which is probably why he is well out of his depth on this subject. As are you. LOLA

    9. Magna Carta, "Rodney William Stark (born July 8, 1934) is an American sociologist of religion who was a long time professor of sociology and of comparative religion at the University of Washington. He is presently the Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University, co-director of the university's Institute for Studies of Religion, and founding editor of the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion....." (from Wikipedia).

      Read the book, magna and stop being a twat.

    10. 19:19, thank you for confirming my point about Stark (that he is a sociologist, not a historian) with that protracted quotation from Wikipedia.

      There is a sweet irony in having someone undermine his argument while strengthening his opponent's hand by substantiating that person's claims.
      So thank you again for doing my 'donkey work' by Googling Wikipedia for
      confirmation of my claim about Stark's academic and professional status.

      I wouldn't waste my precious time reading the whole Stark's polemic and apologetic. I've read extracts from the book, and these point up his lack of
      professionalism as a historian. For instance, Stark tries to debunk the accusation that anti-semitism originated with the Catholic Church by
      providing commonplace historical evidence that various rival nations (or tribes) contemporaneous with the Israelites, and before the birth of Christ,
      were themselves anti-semitic.This is demonstrably arrant nonsense because, historically, anti-semitism was concerned with opposition to the
      Jews on account of the belief that they were considered, by the 'Catholic
      Church', to be Christ- killers, a vile calumny lifted only during the Second Vatican Council. The conflict between the ancient Israelites and nearby pagan tribes was geo-political, not sectarian. Any historian 'worth his salt' knows this. But then, Stark is neither a professional historian, nor worth any such academic salt, because his book shows a distinct and obvious lack of professional historical knowledge and analytical skill.

      Stark's book is pot-holed with such

    11. Stark is a distinguished and recognised scholar on the study of religion. Whereas you, sir, are a just a plain aul' bigot. See ya. Wouldn't wanna be ya.

    12. 00:15, 'See ya. Wouldn't wanna be ya'? How old are you? Twelve?

  6. Popes may come and go but Christianity will remain. However can we reconcile Apostolic Succession

  7. I will take your advice and I will read the book and I will approach it with an open mind. When finished I will come back to you with my considered opinion. How's that?
    Well Read- Newry

    1. That's dead on, Well Read Newry. You'll find it on

  8. I have ordered both books mentioned by the above opponents!
    Will read both - carefully!
    But while an enormous amount of terrible things have been done in the name of the church - for me - the essential thing is to keep faith with the Lord and follow HIS message!
    We have all things which we can regret - time to repair,, reform and reconstruct OURSELVES and ourselves!
    There is no instititution - Civil or Ecclesiatical - which has an unblemished history!
    Reform now -- start now!
    Getting oneself into a "state" solves nothing!

    1. Hurrah, Pip! That's the spirit. A pretence of intellectual openmindedness is better than none at all.

    2. Strangely, Pip and I have known each other for over 60 years - only knew that we were occasionally contributing to this blog in a coincidental conversation!
      It does seem unusually arrogant of you to use the word 'pretence' about this man! He will read your side and your opponents' side and will come to his own conclusions!
      And where is the difficulty in his request that we reform and follow the true spirit of God!
      Armagh Sam

    3. Rodney Stark is a very distinguished and respected scholar of religion.

      I suspect he would blow 'Magna Carta' out of the water intellectually.

      He might even manage to prize some of the tightly-grasped prejudices out of Carta's rigid little fingers and manage to bring a sliver of light into the darkness of Magna's tightly-closed little mind.

      Here is a review of his book:

    4. 20:13, 'unusually arrogant' of me? Really? Is that why 'Pip' at 22:37 referred to the post at 22:16 as 'very timely, truthful comment'?

  9. Question is - Magna Carta - how do you conclude that Pip was indulging in a pretence of openmindepdness! You have made an undoubtedly arrogant assumption without any proof - you have no way of knowing his character and motivation,

    1. 12:52, Tch! This really is kindergarten-level problem-solving. Re-read my comment at 23:58, carefully, and then follow its timeline. This should take you where you want to go.

  10. Magna Carta,
    I can understand the frustrations evident in Armagh Sam - you were asked a question - why not just answer it?
    How do you conclude that Pip was ---- "indulging in a PRETENCE of openmindepdness?

    1. Do you suffer with Attention Deficit Disorder? Armagh Sam does.

      I already did provide an answer to his question, once before even it was asked (at 23:58), and again at 13:43. How many more times?

      Make a special effort to pay attention this time...and then follow my instructions at 13:43. They're really very simple.

    2. Perhaps you should read Magna Carta - Magna Carta!

    3. I have been following this fascinating exchange of contributors with the arrogant and churlish "Magna Carta".

      It is a moot point about Prof Stark being a historian. He is clearly an erudite scholar who commands multi-disciplinary respect. He is eminently qualified to write on religious matters and, to dismiss him in the manner that Magna Carta does, is just plain laughable.

      By the way - I am not one who denies the sins and weaknesses of the Catholic Church - far from it.

      Prof Stark's latest book, however, addresses the matter of fairness and balance towards the Church. He does so impartially and without an axe to grind either way. He, by his own admission, is not a man of faith.

      There are some folk who want to blame the CC for all the evils of the world throughout history. Maybe MC is one of those bigoted and unjust individuals?

      Why not read the book MC? It will no doubt at least add to your towering intellect?

      Or just stay stuck in your intransigent and prejudiced mindset.... It's no skin of my nose anyhow. lol

    4. 17:22, 'a moot point about Prof Stark being a historian'? Surely, what you intended to say was 'that it's a moot point about Prof Stark's NOT being a historian'. But then, to someone like you, so lackadaisical about professional standards, I suppose imprecision in writing is an unavoidable

      Was my challenge to Stark's thesis really so 'laughable'? I made some pertinent criticisms which you didn't address...except unintelligently and
      unconvincingly. Instead, you resorted to ad hominems about me...refuge of the intellectually threadbare.

      You mentioned Prof Stark's 'not being a man of faith'. Really? Has he told you that he lacks faith, or did you just make it up (like certain other
      statements of yours)? I presume you meant that he isn't Catholic (another instance of imprecision in writing) if this added to the credibility of his
      statements. Catholics and non -Catholics are as likely as one another to misinterpret historical Stark has already shown in his little book.

      No, I don't blame the 'Catholic Church' for all the evils of the world
      throughout history'. It was just before this point that you should have drawn breath, as it were, have taken the time to put your overactive
      imagination back on its leash. But I do blame the 'Catholic Church' for the evil in history that it did, verifiably, inflict not only on its own people, but on
      myriads of others.

      We do agree on one thing: that I have a 'towering intellect'. Which is why I have no intention of reading any more of Stark's apology for the dark
      history of the 'Catholic Church', not just in Europe, but in the New World. You, of course, would read the entire book more than once.

      Is it really no skin of your nose if I remain in my 'intransigent and
      prejudiced mindset'? Is this why you went to the trouble of composing, typing and posting such a protracted reply? Of course it is.

    5. Gee man!!!!!
      Magna Carta -
      Are you God by any chance????

    6. I tell you, Anonymous at 21:06, it is not flesh and blood that has revealed this to you, but my...

  11. 17:00, I have read 'Magna Carta' least, as much as I could bear to read. It is, in a word, ideologically boring...much like Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' ( or, for that matter, Rodney Stark's academically unprofessional attempt to revise the historical record of the 'Catholic Church').

    'Magna Carta' is one of those historical documents you read out of academic duty
    rather than for pleasure...much like that book by Hitler. (I was about to reference Rodney Stark's book here...but then I realised that it didn't constitute a historical work, because Rodney isn't really a historian, is he?).

    1. So there you go, Magna Carta. I guess you are going to stay firmly entrenched in your waspish prejudices. Like I said - no skin of my nose. Haters gonna hate. Cheerio! :-D

    2. 20:55, for 'waspish prejudices' read 'truth'.


    3. Yeah, right, "Magna Carta", "truth" indeed.... Keep taking the pills, luvvie. Ciao :)

    4. If my supply runs out, I could always borrow yours; they're double the dose.