Church plays down speculation of papal visit to Ireland

Since Pope St John Paul came in 1979, there has been belief pope will return to complete visit

Commentary about a possible papal visit to Ireland in 2018 to coincide with the World Meeting of Families in Dublin that year has been dismissed by a spokeswoman for Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin.

She said there has been no confirmation of a papal visit to Ireland.

"Speculation in the Irish Catholic newspaper concerning locations etc, quoting unnamed Vatican official are completely without foundation." She said 2017 would be the earliest possibility of an announcement.

Comments by Archbishop Martin in a recent podcast about the likelihood of such a papal visit was in the context of casual discussion and not confirmation, she told The Irish Times.

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She said Archbishop Martin was reflecting on his meetings with Pope Francis over the years and conveying an expression by the Pope of his desire to come to Ireland.

“If a papal visit were to happen to coincide with the World Meeting of Families in Dublin in 2018, confirmation of such a visit would not happen until 2017, at the earliest,” she said.

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

The most recent took place in Philadelphia last September and was the pretext for Pope Francis to visit the US.

At a Mass concluding the Philadelphia Meeting Pope Francis, accompanied by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, announced the 2018 World Meeting of Families would be in Dublin. Since then there has been speculation as to whether this might also mean a papal visit.

And this speculation is likely to continue. Ever since Pope St John Paul came to Ireland in 1979 there has been belief that a pope would return to finish the original 1979 itinerary.

Pope St John Paul had intended visiting Northern Ireland, but he was unable to do so because of the security situation then.

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.

Should a papal visit take place in 2018 it is highly likely to include a visit to Northern Ireland, possibly encompassing the ecclesiastical capital Armagh.

Events related to the 2018 World Meeting of Families are believed likely to take place at the RDS in Dublin, where the 50th International Eucharistic Congress was held in 2012.

However dates and venues for that 2018 World Meeting of Families in Dublin have yet to be announced.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times