Ireland celebrates anniversary of priest archaologist

 The 150th anniversary of Father Joseph Mullooly's excavations in the Basilica of St Clemente in Rome took place over this weekend in Lanesboro, Co Longford. In 1857, Fr Mullooly, a Dominican priest and Prior of the Basilica of St Clemente, began excavations which led to the dramatic discovery not only the original, fourth century Basilica, but also, the remains of an earlier, first century building The Basilica of St Clemente in Rome is named after Pope St Clement the third successor of St Peter. The adjoining friary of St Clemente is the house of the Irish Dominican Province since 1677. As part of their ad limina pilgrimage to Rome in October 2006, the Bishops of Ireland visited the friary and explored the various levels of the Basilica. As part of this commemoration is hosting a special feature on Fr Mullooly, while separately An Post is launching a stamp in Fr Mullooly's honour later this year. Speaking yesterday at the Mass of Thanksgiving in St Mary's Church in Lanesboro, the Bishop of Ardagh & Clonmacnoise, Bishop Colm O'Reilly said: "It is deeply moving to be able to stand in the course of one week in two sacred places which frame the life of one of Ireland's most renowned priests, Father Joseph Mullooly OP. Here in St Mary's Church in Lanesboro, Co Longford, we have gathered today to remember this man in this Church which was built in 1834 and where for six years he would have come for Sunday Mass before he left for a life as a Dominican in Italy. "A week ago some of us were privileged to gather in the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome, that other sacred place to which Fr Mullooly made a massive contribution through his outstanding work by discovery of ancient treasures of the Church lost for many centuries. In the forty years between his leaving Ireland and his death in 1880 he left a priceless legacy to his Dominican Order and to the Church." "While the discovery of the fourth century Basilica of San Clemente will always be seen as the great achievement of his life there was much more to it than that. Fr Mullooly secured the position of the Irish Dominicans as guardians of San Clemente and gave it a status as a centre of learning which it has never lost. He was also brave in defence of the precious buildings entrusted to him and risked his life in their defence. "150 years ago this self-taught archaeologist, who played a major role in the development of Christian archaeology, made his first great discovery. It was so significant that it would bring the Pope of the day, Pius IX, five times to see the wonder of the ancient treasures of art and architecture which his work revealed. It was not only the Pope who came. Many of the crowned monarchs of Europe were pleased to meet this man and see for themselves the wonderful ancient frescoes which had been hidden, some for as long as fourteen hundred years. "Today we give thanks for the remarkable man who grew up in humble surroundings and at a time of great poverty in his native land. It is my prayer oday that the example of this man's life and work will be an inspiration to generous young people who can also bring honour to the Church through lives of service." Source: Irish Catholic Media Office

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