Pope Francis: 'The Holy Irish Abbot St. Columban enriched the Church'

Recalling the Irish missionary monk of St. Columban and his immense legacy, Pope Francis offers encouragement to all assembled in Piacenza, Italy, for 'Columban’s Day 2024,' marking the twenty-fifth International Meeting of Columban Associations.

Jun 24, 2024

File photo of Pope Francis

By Deborah Castellano Lubov
The legacy of Irish abbot, St. Columban, has enriched the Church and civil society.

Pope Francis stressed this in the message he sent Sunday to participants in the XXV International Meeting of Columban Associations for the “Columban’s Day 2024” celebration, 22-23 June, in Piacenza, Italy, the region in which Columban had founded his last monastery in the small town of Bobbio in 614.

Born in 543 in Ireland's Leinster region, St. Columban was a missionary to Europe during the Middle Ages, an intrepid monk, and a scholar.

A network of spiritual and cultural friendships
In the Holy Father's message, the Pope called the occasion a reason "to rejoice."

"For the past twenty-five years," he marveled, "you have been meeting in the name of the great Irish abbot, and have succeeded in creating a network of spiritual and cultural friendships in that part of Europe where Saint Columban and his companions left the imprint of their beneficent presence."  

"Your commemoration," Pope Francis applauded, is "not merely historical," but rather "aims to advance knowledge of Saint Columban and his legacy as a source of enrichment for both the Church and civil society in our own time."

Even if there is "a vast difference between the Europe of today and that of the sixth and seventh centuries," and "between our way of life and the model proposed by the holy abbot and his companions," the Pope acknowledged that such differences,  make "the witness of Saint Columban’s message especially provocative and indeed attractive to us, immersed as we are in practical materialism and a type of neo-paganism."

Timeliness of St. Columban's message
As the Pope recalled that the Irish monks of that time became pilgrims and missionaries who re-evangelized large areas of a continent "where the first fruits of Christianity were at risk of being lost," he praised their outstanding contributions to the fields of spirituality, learning and ethics.  

"The life and labours of the Columban monks," he stressed, "proved decisive for the preservation and renewal of European culture."

“The life and labours of the Columban monks proved decisive for the preservation and renewal of European culture.”

Discovering ways to enrich the faith
"In our own time," Pope Francis went on to appeal, "we need to draw nourishment from the vital “lymph” of the Gospel,  and "discover ways to express their faith and culture with creative fidelity to their rich traditions. "

In doing so, the Pope insisted the Columbans "will be able to contribute to building up a Europe made up of peoples who live harmoniously, side by side," as they "preserve their distinctiveness," while remaining "open to encounter and dialogue."

Pope Francis concluded by thanking all involved in the initiative, and by invoking the protection of St. Columban upon all of them and their various associations.--Vatican News

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