Pope Francis visiting Ireland is ‘very possible’

Vatican spokesman confirms pontiff may attend 2018 World Meeting of Families

It is "very possible" Pope Francis will come to Ireland for the 2018 World Meeting of Families, Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi confirmed to The Irish Times on Tuesday.

“It is not decided yet, but the pope has taken part in [the] World Meeting of Families in the past.

“It is very possible [Pope Francis will attend the event in Dublin that year],” he said.

Another informed source said that, “barring illness”, Pope Francis would be in Dublin that year.

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Held every three years and sponsored by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) is the Catholic Church’s largest international gathering of families.

The most recent event took place in Philadelphia last month and was the pretext for Pope Francis’s visit to the US.

At the Mass that marked the conclusion of the Philadelphia meeting, Pope Francis, accompanied by Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, announced that the next World Meeting of Families would be in Dublin.

Ever since Pope John Paul II's incomplete visit to Ireland in 1979, it has been speculated that a pope would return to finish the planned itinerary.

He had intended on visiting Northern Ireland, but he was unable to do so because of the security situation.

In August 1979, a month prior to the papal visit, the IRA blew up Lord Mountbatten, members of his family and a local boy at Mullaghmore, Co Sligo.

They also blew up 18 British soldiers at Warrenpoint, Co Down.

The farthest north Pope John Paul II went was Drogheda, which is in the Armagh archdiocese.

It means that a visit by Pope Francis in 2018 is highly likely to include a visit to Northern Ireland, possibly to the ecclesiastical capital Armagh, or Derry.

Knock

Some speculate that the pope may also visit Knock, as the reason for the 1979 visit by Pope John Paul II was to mark the centenary of the apparitions there in 1879.

It also seems likely that this next papal visit will include a Mass in the Phoenix Park in Dublin, to mark the conclusion of the 2018 World Meeting of Families.

Related events are likely to take place at the RDS in Dublin, where the 50th International Eucharistic Congress was held in 2012.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times