Pope 'considering' Irish visit

Sun, Feb 5, 2012, 00:00

Pope Benedict would visit Ireland “soon rather than later” and was “actively considering” an invitation from the Irish Catholic Church, the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said.

Dr Martin also said, however, that the Irish Church was not ready for a papal visit.

Speaking on RTÉ radio today, in advance of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress which takes place in Dublin in June, he said 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.”

He said 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. This process 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 didn’t know, “but I would say soon rather than later. When Pope John Paul came to Ireland the notice was very, very limited.

Asked whether he was expecting the pope to visit for the Eucharistic Congress he said: “I have plan A and Plan B.”

The Congress will take place over eight days from 10th to 17th June with events at the RDS. Up to 25,000 people per day are expected, about half of them from overseas. The theme will be The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and with one another.

The Congress is an international gathering which takes place every four years in different locations of the world. It was last held in Ireland in 1932.