Has Ireland, the ‘land of saints and scholars’, given up on religion?

By David Blevins

The small town in County Mayo boasts the national shrine and little else but religious curiosity shops.

You can buy Pope Francis flags, Pope Francis key-rings, even a Pope Francis air freshener.

Traders like Bernie Byrne vividly recall the day Pope John Paul II landed and hope their second papal visit will be good for business.

“Before the scandals broke, the crowds that were coming here were great and all of a sudden, like you clapped your hands together, it nearly halved.

“The authority of the Church, they lost that and the younger people, I suppose they’re more educated than they were years ago and they’re making up their own minds about what their religion is and what their faith is,” he added.

Nicola Mitchell, a youth minister running summer camps, says people have a deep sense of faith but are no longer connecting with the Church.

“When I speak to parents who only bring their kids to make their communion, their answer is always: ‘Look, I have my own faith, I pray to God and I live a good life’.

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