Archbishop says pope has been invited but timing may not be right


POPE BENEDICT would visit Ireland “soon rather than later” and was “actively considering” an invitation to this summer’s Eucharistic Congress, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said.

He warned that the Irish church may not be ready for a papal visit.

Dr Martin told RTÉ radio yesterday, ahead of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in June, that the pope had been invited.

“We haven’t got a response. He did say to me that he would be open to coming but, he said, and this I agree with, that his coming would have to fit into the overall timetable of the renewal of the church in Ireland. Short-circuiting that programme wouldn’t bring the benefits that a papal visit would bring and I am not sure that we are at that stage yet.”

In the wake of the sexual, emotional and physical abuse scandals in Catholic-run institutions and the subsequent fall in Mass attendances, the church here was in need of radical renewal and reform, he added. This would have to be further progressed before a papal visit would be of significant benefit.

“We have to see and understand ourselves where we want to go with the Catholic Church. I think a papal visit will only have a significance when many of these issues of our past are fully addressed.”

Asked when the pope might visit, Dr Martin said he did not know, “but I would say soon rather than later. When Pope John Paul came to Ireland the notice was very, very limited.”

The congress, last held in Ireland in 1932, will take place over eight days from June 10th-17th with events at the RDS.

Up to 25,000 people a day are expected there, about half of them from overseas. The theme will be “The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and with one another”.

“The idea is to prepare a modern renewal congress for Catholics,” Dr Martin said. “It is to be a congress of learning, of sharing and I would hope part of the thing is there would a be a youth stream and they would be brought in to see the variety of things going on.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said if Pope Benedict accepted an invitation to the congress, the Government would “treat his holiness with the respect that his status and his office require”.

Mr Kenny said on RTÉ radio yesterday that the relationship between the Government and the Catholic Church in Ireland was now “far more real and understanding than it has ever been for many years”.

He insisted the Government decision to close the Irish Embassy to the Holy See was wholly unrelated to his criticism of the Vatican following the publication of the Cloyne report. However, he said there would be no early review of the decision to close the embassy.


THE RDS in Dublin is to be “transformed into a Eucharistic village” from June 10th to 17th, attracting 25,000 people a day.

More than 80,000 people are expected at a final Mass, Statio Orbis, at Croke Park.

Religious and lay speakers are due from Russia, Belgium, the US, Canada, the Philippines, Honduras, Uganda, Israel, Iraq, France, Italy, England, Australia, Spain, Austria, Germany, Albania and Northern Ireland, as well as from this State.

Among the lay speakers will be Alice Leahy of Trust, who works with the homeless in Dublin, and journalist John Waters.

On Monday, June 11th, at 9.30am, Mass will be said in 18 languages, including Vietnamese, Greek, Slovakian, Irish, German, Tagalog and Latin, at different locations throughout Dublin.

As well as the prayers and talks, there will be a range of activities, including movies, choirs, cultural exhibitions, plays, gospel music, traditional Irish music, liturgical dance, Christian rock bands, orchestras, workshops on song and other artistic expressions.