Read full text and listen to our recording of Bishop NT Wright’s talk on St. Paul given on 10th Nov in Carlow Cathedral.

Bishop Wright speaking in Carlow Cathedral

Text and Audio

Click on link to download full text –‘Paul: Faith and Hope for tomorrow’s world’

Clink on link to view a video of Bishop Wright at the event

This talk made available by kind permission of Bishop NT Wright

We have divided our recording of Bishop Wright’s full talk into two parts as below.



Also included below is the response to Bishop Wright’s talk delivered by Fr Sean Maher.


Bishop NT Wright, the Church of England Bishop of Durham, is one of the worlds leading scholars on the New Testament, and especially on the letters of Paul. He was the official representative (fraternal delegate) of the Church of England at the recent Synod on the Word of God.

The invitiation to Bishop Wright to give this talk arose as as one of the diocesan initiatives to mark the Pauline Year – with its inherent ecumecial dimension.


This is the heart of Pauline faith: that in Jesus Christ God has done what he has promised, rescuing humans and the world from sin and death, and launching his project of new creation; and that in the Holy Spirit God will do and indeed is already doing what he has promised, bringing new life to humans and to the world. For Paul, faith isn’t just a matter of believing in God and then somehow bringing Jesus or the Spirit into the picture. Faith is a matter of learning who the true God, the creator and covenant God, really is in the light of Jesus and the Spirit, and in that light renouncing idols, reshaping worldviews, and especially confronting the world in which the principalities and powers think they are divine and need to learn that they’re not.

Reponse by Fr Sean Maher

It is quite an honour to be asked to offer the response to Bishop Wright’s Lecture here in Carlow this evening.

In speaking here this evening, you speak into a long tradition. The monastic school of Leighlin was an important ecclesiastical centre in the Middle Ages. The Book of Mullen, which lies alongside the Book of Kells in Trinity Library, has its origins here in Carlow. The Cistercian monasteries of Duiske and Baltinglass continued the tradition of learning almost into the seventeenth century. You stand just a few metres away from the oldest Catholic third level college in Ireland. Most particularly, we stand in the tradition of James Doyle, JKL, who was the builder of this Cathedral and the mastermind of Catholic Emancipation.

Deeper still into tradition, you have brought us this evening to the wellsprings of faith and hope. Paul is the master craftsman when it comes to articulating what it means to belong to Christ, what it means to enter into the relationship with the Risen Jesus that we have come to call faith, what it is to have an perspective on life that is infused with the truth of God’s love and glory, which we have come to call hope. It is good, indeed necessary, to go back to drink at this fountain. In announcing the Pauline year, Pope Benedict expressed two hopes for this year

  • That we would try to hear what Saint Paul says to us today
  • That we would read the Apostle together with Christians of different traditions so as to make this year truly ecumenical.

This is what we have done here tonight. We have gone back together to drink from the fountain of faith and hope, the encounter with the Living and Life-giving Word of God. We have come from different traditions, and even different countries and cultures, to hear anew the Apostle’s call to life in and with Christ. Thank you for guiding us to this place!

Paul’s great mission was to bring the message of Christ into dialogue with the cultures and the ideas of his time. He had to coin the language of Christianity to allow it to enter into dialogue with Greek sophistication, Roman ideas of prowess and order, even with Celtic Galatian propensity to stubbornness…… quite a man to take on Greeks and Romans, but the Galatian Celts!! He might be able to get around Greeks and Romans with fine rhetoric, but he just had to tell the Celts they were clueless and they should just trust him, Thanks for being a lot more diplomatic with the Celts gathered here this evening.

Joking aside, the parallels are striking. Our mission today is that same mission as Paul had some two thousand years ago. As we noted already, in standing here tonight you stand in a long tradition of faith. Our faith goes back to the first great missionary endeavour after that of Paul, the first people outside the Roman Empire to have been evangelized. That faith has coloured our history more than any other influence. That faith has dialogued with new realities at every turn of our history. In remembering Paul here tonight, it is good to note that some of the earliest written words of any European vernacular are the words in Irish that monks wrote as glosses on the manuscripts of the Pauline writings now held in Wurzburg, Sanct Gallen and Bobbio. It is a proud past, but marred in many ways also. Probably no other country in Europe has felt so badly the pain of division in Christian traditions. Now, in a New Ireland, built on a past that knew pride and honour, but also poverty and violence, we are called to be Paul once more and to speak the words of faith and hope into the ear of the Celtic Tiger. It is not easy, but neither was it easy for Paul to brave the seas and to travel in the name of Christ throughout the world of his day. What you have done here tonight is an important step in this new adventure of the Gospel in our country. You have brought us back to drink at the fountain, to sustain ourselves to take another step into the Ephesus and Corinth of Ireland today.

I would like to conclude these words of response with reference to one of our poets in the Irish language, Sean O Riordain. O Riordain is passionate about a Pauline problem… the insufficiency of words to convey the depths of human emotion and understanding. He stands at a loss as he tries to raid the inarticulate. In one of his poems, Paul becomes his hero. Here was a man who knew the same difficulty.. how can mere words like “faith” or “hope” express the reality of humanity’s new situation with the Word become flesh? Yet Paul tries, and tries. In one of his poems, Gui, a prayer, O Riordain leaves aside the teachings and the doctrines, and imagines that Paul himself peers at him through the Latin text in front of him, and that makes all the difference. He writes:

Iarraim go bhfeicfinn tri Phol s a theagasc
An Pol ata thios, ag gliucaiocht trid and Laidin


I ask that I may see, through Paul and his teaching
The Paul that is deep down, peering through the Latin

Bishop Wright, thank you for introducing us again to the Paul that is deep down that peers at us through the pages of the New Testament!