Mon, May 6, 2013, 05:58

Sir, – Your former editor Conor Brady wrote a most interesting piece about “The Laois man who was elected pope” (An Irishman’s Diary, March 11th). I am delighted that he has unearthed and substantiated this story. I have known of it for some considerable time because it was part of family lore. I was also supplied with a body of information – reprints from learned journals etc. by the late Frank Meehan who was very much involved like myself with the Fitzpatrick Clan Society. St Benedict was indeed born in what was then Ossory (now Laois). He was a descendant of the founder of the MacGillaPhadraig/Fitzpatrick family the first King of Ossory, Aengus Osriagh, from whom the region took its name.
It is both a global and a wonderfully local story. I well recall in the early 1950s visiting my great aunt who lived in Clonenagh House (Cluan Ena – The Meadow of St Enda) named after Benedict’s great friend St Enda who was a fellow pupil at the monastic university of Cluan Ena and who was also the friend who accompanied him to Rome. I remember scrambling around the remains of the seven churches and investigating with curiosity the holy tree that survived there until recently. I understand that Benedict, having first accepted the papacy and chosen the name Pupeus, became violently home sick and returned to the monastery on the Aran Islands where he is still revered as St Benedict of Aran.
For a long time I found it difficult to get much external confirmation of this story, but I was recently delighted and entertained to see that it has made its way onto the GAA website where the story is conveniently altered to suggest that St Benedict returned to Ireland not motivated by homesickness but because of a pressing engagement to play a hurley match. In any case, in the light of the recent history of the papacy I find it entertaining that I might have even the vaguest kinship with a pope called Benedict, and I would be more than happy to join a campaign to have him reinstated in the Catholic Directory. – Yours, etc,
Kildare Street,
Dublin 2.