Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Cardinal Keith Patrick O'Brien, as his Special Envoy to the celebrations marking the Centenary of the Foundation of Longtower Church in the Irish City of Derry, due to be held on 9 June 2009.
The Longtower Church is regarded as the home of Christianity in Derry - even though the construction of St Eugene's Cathedral as the Mother Church of the Diocese took place in 1873. It is believed that St Columba himself established his first monastery on the site of the present Longtower Church in 546 before he left for Iona in 564.
Expressing his delight at the appointment as Personal Envoy or Legate, Cardinal O'Brien said: 'Having been born and brought up in Ballycastle in Country Antrim, it is a very great privilege for me to have been asked by Pope Benedict XVI to return to Ireland to represent him personally at these anniversary celebrations in Derry."
"I know that I am one of a long succession of Irish priests who have helped to spread the Gospels from Ireland to Scotland and to other parts of the world. Representing the Holy Father in Derry will be for me a small way of thanking Ireland for the wonderful missionary work which has continued from the whole country for the past 1,500 years'.