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Phoenix Park `will host Pope Francis farewell Mass'

Pope John Paul II celebrating open air Mass at Dublin's Phoenix Park in 1979. Picture by PA Wire

PHOENIX Park is on course to again host the Pontiff, with organisers seeking a large venue for Pope Francis's farewell Mass during his visit to Ireland next August.

During Pope John Paul II's 1979 visit to the Republic, more than a million people flocked to Europe's largest enclosed capital city public park for the mass service.

It was expected that the park would not be sought as a venue this time, with commentators predicting out that far fewer people would turn out to see the Pope than four decades ago.

Then, the estimated 2.7 million who attended various events was almost half the island's population, with one million gathered for the papal Mass - believed to be the largest gathering of Irish people in history.

However, then 87 per cent of Catholics attended weekly Mass, while today that figure sits at just 41 per cent.

Recent polls have revived the possibility of a well-attended event, showing around 40 per cent of Irish people `would like to see the Pope'.

The Irish Catholic said it has understands what "discussions have been taking place between World Meeting of Families (WMOF18) organisers with state authorities and planners hope... Phoenix Park... will be unveiled as the venue for the closing Papal Mass".

It says "outline planning" by officials in the Department of the Taoiseach has already begun, with a special liaison group to be appointed by Leo Varadkar to co-ordinate efforts between the Catholic church and state.

The Pope's attendance will only be confirmed in spring 2018 - around six months before the August 21-26 event.

No indication has yet been given of the plans for Pope Francis to travel north of the border, but it is widely expected that he will.

It is not the Argentinian's first trip to Ireland. He spent a few months with fellow Jesuits at Milltown Park in Dublin learning English in 1980.

Pope John Paul II at Dublin during his visit to Ireland in September 1979. Picture by Pacemaker Press

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