POPE FRANCIS is likely to visit Ireland in 2018, after the announcement by the Pope that the next World Meeting of Families will be held in Dublin.
His visit — which the RC Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, emphasised was still a matter of speculation, but is more likely than not to take place — will almost certainly include Northern Ireland. He will be the first pope to make such a visit.
At the Festival of Families on Saturday night in Philadelphia, Pope Francis said: “What God most wants from us is to knock on the doors of families, and to find people who love each other, who bring up their children with love, and who contribute to a society of truth, goodness, and beauty.
“I look forward to sharing the joy of this announcement with Archbishop Diarmuid, my fellow bishops, and with people from all around the country, as we begin thinking about how, together, we can best plan to make this significant international event [in Dublin] a success.”
Dr Martin said that the Pope understood what the RC Church in the country was going through as a result of the clerical abuse scandals and the changes in Irish society. The 78-year-old Pope, he said, had shown great stamina throughout his visit to Cuba and the United States, which ended at the weekend. His love of the country would suggest that a visit was likely, but no announcement was pending.
Pope Francis is no stranger to the Irish capital: after the visit of Pope John Paul II to Ireland in 1979, when security issues prevented a visit to Northern Ireland, the then Jesuit priest from Argentina spent three months during 1980 studying in the order’s centre at Milltown Park, in South Dublin.
The RC Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Eamon Martin, welcomed the Pope’s announcement: “I am delighted to hear that Pope Francis has announced that the ninth World Meeting of Families will take place in Dublin, and that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin is in Philadelphia with our delegation to hear the news directly from the Holy Father.
“Three years ago, the 50th International Eucharistic Congress was a great celebration of faith for Ireland, and it attracted pilgrims from all around the world. I am confident that the World Meeting of Families in 2018 will also be an uplifting event for all of us.”