Say Nope to the Pope: Irish snap up tickets to see pontiff – with no plan to go

In mass protest, demonstrators against Catholic church apply for free tickets but will not be attending

When free tickets for the mass to be celebrated by Pope Francis in Phoenix Park in Dublin were advertised, Mary Coll applied for two – one in her name and the other in the name of her birth mother, who gave her up for adoption in 1962.

But Coll will not be using the tickets. “This is my protest, not to go,” she said. Instead, she will drive from her home in Limerick to Tuam, where a vigil will be held at the site of a mass grave discovered last year at a former Catholic church mother-and-baby home. It contained the remains of up to 800 infants.

Coll got the idea of applying but not using tickets for the mass on Sunday from Say Nope to the Pope, a campaign of “silent and peaceful protest” against his visit. The group’s Facebook page has about 9,000 supporters.

Michael Stewart, one of the organisers, said the idea resonated with people “because it’s an effective form of protest”.

“As Irish citizens, we were all entitled to a ticket to the papal mass if we wished. The taxpayer was funding this visit regardless of their faith, and that was the icing on the cake for many,” he said.

Half a million tickets were available to the public for the mass, with a further 45,000 for the papal visit to the Marian shrine in Knock.

“Why shouldn’t [people] claim their ticket and use it how they see fit?” Stewart said. “It seems that actively and deliberately not using their ticket was an appropriate option while we stand in solidarity with the excessive number of victims from this atrocious organisation.”

The campaign was criticised by Leo Varadkar, the taoiseach, who said denying people who wanted to attend the mass the chance of getting tickets was “petty and mean-spirited”.

“Protest is legitimate and OK, but denying other people the opportunity to attend a mass or an event is not legitimate protest in my view and is most unfair. It should be condemned,” he said.

His comments followed reports that some people had booked hundreds of tickets as a form of protest.

One person claimed to have secured 1,312 tickets to the events, including several under the name “Jesus Christ”, and by booking coachloads of people under false transport company names.

Another posted on the campaign’s Facebook page: “I have booked 800 tickets using three different email addresses. Some people have 50 or 60 tickets. We are just doing this simple, peaceful act of protest as resistance to the Catholic church recruiting in Ireland.”

Say Nope to the Pope has distanced itself from individuals who applied for large blocks of tickets, saying its aim was to obtain tickets “to which we are entitled” in a “peaceful, silent and respectful protest against one of the world’s largest corrupt organisations”.

The campaign is urging its supporters to join survivors of clerical abuse for vigils on Sunday at the time of the mass.

Coll said the majority of people she knew were “very unhappy about the [pope’s] visit” and would not be taking part in events.

Many are angry about child sexual abuse and its covering up, the cruel treatment of vulnerable young women in the Magdalene laundries and the forced or coerced adoption of babies born to unmarried women.

“This is not an anti-religion thing, it’s not about disrespect for people’s beliefs or their right to practise any particular belief. It’s about people like myself who were raised as Catholics, who were practising Catholics, who suddenly went: ‘Hang on a second, these are terrible wrongs we’re hearing about.’ And we waited and we waited, and the church did nothing,” she said.

“There are no channels of protest within the church. The church is not interested in feedback. It’s not an organisation where you can fill in a questionnaire on its service. They do things their way and they’re really not interested in what you think about it.”


Harriet Sherwood, religion correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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