There was only a week to go until Pope John Paul II's trip to Ireland before widespread rumours of a visit to Clonmacnois were officially confirmed.
Some 15,000 people thronged the ancient monastic city of Clonmacnois on September 30, 1979, as the Pontiff visited the historic monastic site for what was meant to be a moment of private prayer.
The visit was described as "private", and was expected to be a very brief stop off on his journey to Galway. The Irish bishops went almost as far as discouraging people from attending at Clonmacnois. Dr Daly warned pilgrims not to cancel plans to attend at other sites in favour of Clonmacnois. Dr Daly, in his pre-visit letter, said: "People who do come to Clonmacnois will certainly see and hear the Holy Father, but the brevity of his visit, their distance from the Pope and the possibility of the late cancellation must be kept in mind by those proposing to come."
All motor vehicles were stopped some three or four miles from the monastic site, where car parking was provided by local farmers.
Pope John Paul II arrived by helicopter around 9.30am on Sunday, September 30, to a passionate welcome from some 15,000 pilgrims who were there to pray with the Holy Father.
According to the Westmeath/Offaly Independent, it was a "sombre and respectful gathering" and the paper described how from midnight, groupls began taking up positions on the sloping ground to the north of the monastry.
"By 3am the big build-up began, with cars, bicycles and pedestrians converging on Clonmacnoise from the Shannonbridge, Athlone and Ferbane roads."
Gardaí were out in force.
When the Pope arrived, he was flanked by Cardinals O'Fiach and Carroll and Bishop Marcinkus, and greeted by Bishop Cahal Daly. Bishop Daly described it later as the "happiest day of his life".
The Pope visited an open-air oratory where he venerated St Manchan's Shrine and other diocesan relics.
From there he went up the hill, stopped to examine the Cross of the Scriptures, before coming to view on a specially prepared platform where he addressed the huge gathering.
Before leaving he blessed a yew tree which was later planted in Clonmacnois and was presented with a replica of the Papal Crozier, made of an alloy of metals from Clonmacnois.
As he walked down the hill to return to his helicoptor, the "vast gathering erupted" reported this newspaper. En masse, they crossed the boundary wall and surged forward despite the best efforts of the stewards and gardaí to stem the tide.
"They climed every vantage point to get a better view."
The Pope was then presented with a commemorative album of Clonmacnois scenes by the chairman of Bord Failte, PV Doyle.
Among the privileged few who made up the welcome party for the Pope were the then chairman of Offaly County Council Pat Dowd, vice-chairman Eddie Joe Dooley and other officials.
Senior diocesan and local priests were gathered at the helicopter pad to greet the Pope. There was also recognition of the long Church of Ireland association with Clonmacnois in the presence of Canon Langton May, rector of Athlone and Canon RH Boyle of Banagher.