Wednesday, 19th June 2024

375 Anniversary

Her Excellency President Mary Mc Aleese attended the celebrations for the 375th anniversary of the foundation of the Pontifical Irish College in Rome on Thursday 6th November 2003. The celebrations were also attended by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Desmond Connell, Archbishop of Dublin, Most Revd Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh (a former Rector of the Irish College), representatives of Church and State and members of the Irish community living in Rome.

November 6th is the Feast of All the Saints of Ireland, traditionally the patronal feast of the College. The programme included two lectures on the history and ongoing contribution of the Irish College to religion and education in Ireland and beyond. The papers were delivered by Rev Dr Thomas O’Connor and Professor John Coolahan, both of NUI Maynooth. A monument to the many Irish Colleges that were scattered over continental Europe, by the Cork artist Ken Thompson, was unveiled by President McAleese.

The event also included the publication of the manuscript history of the foundation of the College which was presented to the Pope earlier today. Originally written in Latin to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the College in 1678, this is a fascinating description of the struggle, imagination, courage, hope and angst experienced by the small group of Irish exiles and their Italian friends as they brought to fruition their dream of having an Irish College in Rome. The work is particularly significant in that it provides a unique insight into the Irish Catholic community at a time when it was suffering political and religious persecution.  St Oliver Plunkett was a student at the College during this period.

The College community was received in Audience today (November 5th) by Pope John Paul II who personally extended “a special greeting to the group from the Pontifical Irish College.”

Founded in 1628, the Irish College is the oldest Irish seminary and the inheritor of the long tradition of such colleges on the European mainland. Today, the College continues its original mission of preparing candidates for the diocesan priesthood in Ireland. It is also home to students from 13 other countries who are studying in many of Rome’s ecclesiastical universities. The College is governed by the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education and by the Irish Episcopal Conference. The present Rector, the 52nd in the College’s history, is Monsignor Liam Bergin from the Diocese of Ossory.

The College also serves as the focal point for the growing Irish community in Rome, and is a point of reference for Irish pilgrims, tourists and couples who marry in Rome. It also provides a vibrant point of contact between Irish and Italian culture.