Canon Brian McCluskey (third from left) with his fellow priests including Monsignor Ambrose Macaulay (right)  Photo: Fr Hugh Clifford

Canon Brian McCluskey (third from left) with his fellow priests including Monsignor Ambrose Macaulay (right) Photo: Fr Hugh Clifford


Michael Fisher  Northern Standard  Carrickmacross News  Thursday May 28th

Canon Brian McCluskey, a native of Inniskeen, has returned from Rome after celebrating the 55th anniversary of his ordination. The highlight of his return to Italy was to participate in a private Mass at the Vatican concelebrated by Pope Francis. They were joined by five other priests who were clerical students with Canon Brian at the Pontifical Irish College in Rome in 1960.

The other members of the group were Fr Kevin McMullan (Belfast); Monsignor Jim Kelly (Adare and Brooklyn); Fr Phil Doyle (Tarbert, County Kerry); Fr Brian Twomey SPS (Ashford, County Wicklow and Stirling) and Monsignor Ambrose Macaulay from Cushendall.

Canon McCluskey is a retired priest of the diocese of Clogher, now in his 80th year and living in South Belfast, where he assists the Parish Priest of St Brigid’s, Fr Eddie O’Donnell. Monsignor Macaulay was Fr O’Donnell’s predecessor and five years ago he celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination along with Canon McCluskey. The Mass in Belfast in 2010 was attended by the former Bishop of Clogher, Dr Joseph Duffy, who sent Canon Brian his good wishes on this latest milestone.

Canon McCluskey comes from Blackstaff in Inniskeen. The poet Patrick Kavanagh was a near neighbour. He is a former pupil of St Macartan’s College in Monaghan. After his ordination, he served as a curate in his home parish of Inniskeen from 1977 to 1983. He was a parish priest in Threemilehouse and later Roslea, during the troubles in the North.

He has met three canonised saints, including St Padre Pio and St John XXIII whom he visited while studying for the priesthood in Rome in the 1950s. He met another future saint, St John Paul II, on the occasion of his Silver Jubilee in 1985.


Pope Francis  Photo: news.va

Pope Francis Photo: news.va

Vatican Radio reports on the meeting Pope Francis had in the Vatican yesterday with the heads and other senior officials of the departments of the Roman Curia, in their traditional exchange of Christmas greetings. But there was something very non-traditional about the Pope’s remarks. He listed fifteen ailments of the administration that he wanted to be cured. The Holy Father focused on the need for those who serve in the Curia – especially those in positions of power and authority – to remember and cultivate an attitude and a spirit of service.

“Sometimes,” said Pope Francis, “[officials of the Curia] feel themselves ‘lords of the manor’ [It. padroni] – superior  to everyone and everything,” forgetting that the spirit, which should animate them in their lives of service to the universal Church, is one of humility and generosity, especially in view of the fact that none of us will live forever on this earth…The Curia is always required to better itself and to grow in communion, sanctity and wisdom to fully accomplish its mission. However, like any body, it is exposed to sickness, malfunction and infirmity… I would like to mention some of these illnesses that we encounter most frequently in our life in the Curia. They are illnesses and temptations that weaken our service to the Lord”, continued the Pontiff, who after inviting all those present to an examination of conscience to prepare themselves for Christmas, listed the most common Curial ailments:

The first is “the sickness of considering oneself ‘immortal’, ‘immune’ or ‘indispensable’, neglecting the necessary and habitual controls. A Curia that is not self-critical, that does not stay up-to-date, that does not seek to better itself, is an ailing body. … It is the sickness of the rich fool who thinks he will live for all eternity, and of those who transform themselves into masters and believe themselves superior to others, rather than at their service”.

The second is “’Martha-ism’, or excessive industriousness; the sickness of those who immerse themselves in work, inevitably neglecting ‘the better part’ of sitting at Jesus’ feet. Therefore, Jesus required his disciples to rest a little, as neglecting the necessary rest leads to stress and agitation. Rest, once one who has brought his or her mission to a close, is a necessary duty and must be taken seriously: in spending a little time with relatives and respecting the holidays as a time for spiritual and physical replenishment, it is necessary to learn the teaching of Ecclesiastes, that ‘there is a time for everything’”.

Then there is “the sickness of mental and spiritual hardening: that of those who, along the way, lose their inner serenity, vivacity and boldness and conceal themselves behind paper, becoming working machines rather than men of God. … It is dangerous to lose the human sensibility necessary to be able to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice! It is the sickness of those who lose those sentiments that were present in Jesus Christ”.

“The ailment of excessive planning and functionalism: this is when the apostle plans everything in detail and believes that, by perfect planning things effectively progress, thus becoming a sort of accountant. … One falls prey to this sickness because it is easier and more convenient to settle into static and unchanging positions. Indeed, the Church shows herself to be faithful to the Holy Spirit to the extent that she does not seek to regulate or domesticate it. The Spirit is freshness, imagination and innovation”.

The “sickness of poor coordination develops when the communion between members is lost, and the body loses its harmonious functionality and its temperance, becoming an orchestra of cacophony because the members do not collaborate and do not work with a spirit of communion or as a team”.

“Spiritual Alzheimer’s disease, or rather forgetfulness of the history of Salvation, of the personal history with the Lord, of the ‘first love’: this is a progressive decline of spiritual faculties, that over a period of time causes serious handicaps, making one incapable of carrying out certain activities autonomously, living in a state of absolute dependence on one’s own often imaginary views. We see this is those who have lost their recollection of their encounter with the Lord … in those who build walls around themselves and who increasingly transform into slaves to the idols they have sculpted with their own hands”.

“The ailment of rivalry and vainglory: when appearances, the colour of one’s robes, insignia and honours become the most important aim in life. … It is the disorder that leads us to become false men and women, living a false ‘mysticism’ and a false ‘quietism’”.

Then there is “existential schizophrenia: the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of the hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and the progressive spiritual emptiness that cannot be filled by degrees or academic honours. This ailment particularly afflicts those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic matters, thus losing contact with reality and with real people. They create a parallel world of their own, where they set aside everything they teach with severity to others and live a hidden, often dissolute life”.

The sickness of “chatter, grumbling and gossip: this is a serious illness that begins simply, often just in the form of having a chat, and takes people over, turning them into sowers of discord, like Satan, and in many cases cold-blooded murderers of the reputations of their colleagues and brethren. It is the sickness of the cowardly who, not having the courage to speak directly to the people involved, instead speak behind their backs”.

“The sickness of deifying leaders is typical of those who court their superiors, with the hope of receiving their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, honouring people rather than God. They are people who experience service thinking only of what they might obtain and not of what they should give. They are mean, unhappy and inspired only by their fatal selfishness”.

“The disease of indifference towards others arises when each person thinks only of himself, and loses the sincerity and warmth of personal relationships. When the most expert does not put his knowledge to the service of less expert colleagues; when out of jealousy … one experiences joy in seeing another person instead of lifting him up or encouraging him”.

“The illness of the funereal face: or rather, that of the gruff and the grim, those who believe that in order to be serious it is necessary to paint their faces with melancholy and severity, and to treat others – especially those they consider inferior – with rigidity, hardness and arrogance. In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity”.

“The disease of accumulation: when the apostle seeks to fill an existential emptiness of the heart by accumulating material goods, not out of necessity but simply to feel secure. … Accumulation only burdens and inexorably slows down our progress”.

“The ailment of closed circles: when belonging to a group becomes stronger than belonging to the Body and, in some situations, to Christ Himself. This sickness too may start from good intentions but, as time passes, enslaves members and becomes a ‘cancer’ that threatens the harmony of the Body and causes a great deal of harm – scandals – especially to our littlest brothers”.

Then, there is the “disease of worldly profit and exhibitionism: when the apostle transforms his service into power, and his power into goods to obtain worldly profits or more power. This is the disease of those who seek insatiably to multiply their power and are therefore capable of slandering, defaming and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines, naturally in order to brag and to show they are more capable than others”.

Pope Francis  Photo: news.va

Pope Francis Photo: news.va

Pope Francis continued: “We are therefore required, at this Christmas time and in all the time of our service and our existence – to live ‘speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love’”.

“I once read that priests are like aeroplanes: they only make the news when they crash, but there are many that fly. Many criticise them and few pray for them”, he concluded. “It is a very nice phrase, but also very true, as it expresses the importance and the delicacy of our priestly service, and how much harm just one priest who falls may cause to the whole body of the Church”.

This is surely one of the most important addresses by any Pope in the past fifty years or so, since Vatican II. The video of his address in Italian can be watched here.


HPBenedictPapalpageaThe courageous decision by Pope Benedict XVI to step down from the See of Peter came as a shock not only to Roman Catholics throughout the world, but to those of other faiths as well. This was mainly because it has been 600 years since a pontiff resigned. The last time it was under duress; this time it is a voluntary act. The 85 year-old Pope celebrated a Mass for Ash Wednesday at the Vatican and held an audience with visitors from different countries. His final public appearance is expected to be in a fortnight’s time on February 27th.

His resignation has been the subject of much comment in the media and has also produced a rash of posts in social media, some of them dispraging but others quite humorous. One of the best ones I noticed was this one showing a picture of a possible (but unlikely!) successor, the Reverend Ian Paisley, who retired from his job as Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church in 2008 and from ministry a year ago.IanPThere is a saying “all news is local”. But I thought the Birmingham Post headline for their newspaper stands was stretching it a bit. It was noticed and posted on facebook by a former RTÉ colleague, Eugene McVeigh…….  popeheadline

One comment on it was “Pope Brummidictus!!” whereas my own offering was on the lines of “Always find a local angle! Pope has had enough after visiting Lozells, Nechells, Perry Barr, Acock’s Green & Balti land“.

Pope Benedict steps down at the end of the month. The conclave at the Vatican to elect his successor will start as early as March 15th, according to a papal spokesman. This means whoever is chosen by the Cardinals should be in place by Easter.


Monsignor Eamon Martin (right) Photo: Irish Bishops' Conference

Monsignor Eamon Martin (right):               Photo Irish Bishops’ Conference

More than two years after Cardinal Seán Brady made a request to the Vatican, Pope Benedict has appointed Monsignor Eamon Martin from Derry as Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh (an assistant with the right to succeed to the post of Archbishop). I have not met him but he came across in television and radio interviews as a very capable and enthusiastic clergyman. He made clear the Catholic church’s position regarding abortion and the ongoing discussions in the Republic about the “X” case. He also spoke about his upbringing in Derry as one of a family of twelve (six boys and six girls). Monsignor Martin is expected to be ordained as Coadjutor within a few months.

52-year-old Monsignor Martin has been Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Derry since November 2011 and the two former Bishops Seamus Hegarty and Edward Daly have welcomed his appointment. Speaking at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh, Cardinal Brady welcomed the man who will take over from him in due course. He described Monsignor Martin as a man of great gifts and great generosity who he said would know how to use those talents in the education of people, young and old.

St Columb's College Derry

St Columb’s College Derry

A former pupil of St Columb’s College in Derry, he was ordained in Maynooth in 1987 aged 26. He later became a teacher at St Columb’s and was promoted to President of the College in 2000. He is a director of the National Board for Safeguarding Children, which was established by the Catholic church following revelations about clerical sex abuse in a number of dioceses.