Today, the Holy Father Francis received the President of Ireland, His Excellency Michael D. Higgins, who brought the Holy Father a Shillelagh, the traditional Irish walking stick made from blackthorn wood.
The shillelagh was originally used for settling disputes in a gentlemanly manner — like a duel with pistols or swords. Modern practitioners of bataireacht study the use of the shillelagh for self-defense and as a martial art.
President Higgins subsequently met with His Eminence Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by His Excellency Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States according to a statement from the Vatican Press Office.
During the cordial talks, various matters of mutual interest were discussed, such as migration and the protection of the environment, with particular attention to the prospects of the 26th United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP26), to take place in Glasgow. There was also a joint reflection on the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic and the future of Europe, focusing finally on the theme of the strengthening of the peace process in the country.
Michael D. Higgins was inaugurated as the ninth President of Ireland on November 11, 2011. On November 11, 2018, he was inaugurated for a second term.
A passionate political voice, a poet and writer, academic and statesman, human rights advocate, promoter of inclusive citizenship, and champion of creativity within Irish society, Michael D. Higgins has previously served at almost every level of public life in Ireland, including as Ireland’s first Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.
Michael D. Higgins was born on 18 April 1941 in Limerick city and was raised in County Clare. He was a factory worker and a clerk before becoming the first in his family to access higher education. He studied at the University College Galway, the University of Manchester, and Indiana University.
Michael D. Higgins is married to Sabina Higgins, and they have four children. Sabina Higgins attended the Dublin Stanislavski Acting Studio and was a founding member of the Focus Theatre.