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Address of Bishop Denis at a Civic Reception for the Ambassador of Luxembourg.

The Ambassador of Luxembourg visited Carlow County Council, County Buildings, Athy Road and the Cathedral of the Assumption, Carlow on 26 August 2022


Your Excellency, Cathaoirleach, Elected Members, Council Officials, Invited Guests & Friends,

Who remembers 1983? Rathvilly were crowned football champions, while St. Mullins took hurling honours. There was a ‘Battle of the Bands’ in the Town Park, the programme then cost 40 pence! The East Link Bridge began construction in April, manufactured by Thompsons here in Carlow. And why do I mention 1983? It was the year when Corinne Hermes won the Eurovision Song Contest for Luxembourg with “Si la vie est cadeau”!

A year earlier, 1982, Professor Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, based in UCG, began his research into the engrained connection Willibrord and his early monks had with the Carlow area. Through the mists of time, this Carlow connection, was for the most part forgotten. It is to the credit of Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, Dermot Mulligan and others that this connection has been re-established over the intervening years. And indeed it is this very connection that brings you Ambassador and your Deputy Head of Mission to visit us today!

It was in 2016 that meetings began in earnest with church and civic authorities around how we might try to honour this connection. In June 2017 a pilgrimage group of sixty travelled to Echternach. In our company were the Presentation School Band, founded by the late Sr. Anna Hyland. The pilgrimage was ecumenical in nature, led by Bishop Michael Burrows and myself. Among our pilgrims then, we fondly remember today the late Fr. John Cummins and Sr. Dolores now with Willibrord and his companions in eternity.

We received a wonderful welcome and reception from the St. Willibrord Foundation and the people of Echternach, particularly Pierre Kauthen and Alain Muller who gave much of his time to give tours of the town to the different hopping groups. Also special mention of the Irish Ambassador to Luxembourg at the time Peadar Carpenter who has since retired.

Although the weather on the morning of the ‘Hopping Procession’ in 2017 reminded those of us on pilgrimage very much of ‘normal’ Irish weather (raining cats and dogs!), we were delighted to take part in a once in a lifetime experience. We were ‘Group 29’ in the hopping procession.

Later that summer, a group travelled from Echternach to Carlow and together we took part in our ‘Walk with Willibrord’ project along the River Barrow, linking St. Lazerians Cathedral in Old Leighlin and the Cathedral of the Assumption here in Carlow. It was a walk with the relic of St. Willibrord, gifted to me by the then Archbishop of Luxembourg, Jean Claude Hollerich. Later this morning, Ambassador and guests, you will have an opportunity of seeing the relic in its specially appointed shrine in our Cathedral.

Maybe our ease with the rhythm of the ‘Hopping Procession’ resonates with our love of dancing. Who will ever forget ‘Riverdance’, the interval act in the Eurovision in 1994? Our Celtic tradition has given us a prayer that engages every part of our body. I often think the Lough Derg pilgrimage as we step from stone to stone or climb Croagh Patrick one step at a time are a good case in point. Prayer must have rhythm, pace and timing, just like the UNESCO recognised ‘Hopping Procession’.

Ambassador Florence, Deputy Head of Mission, André, delighted you have come to visit us and in doing so to retrace the steps of Willibrord and his companions who brought the faith and culture to Luxembourg. You are most welcome and we look forward to deepening our ties and connections, may this be the first of many such visits.