Pope's visit

Why is Pope Francis visiting the Republic?

Pope Francis will arrive in Dublin on Saturday. Picture by AP
Michael McHugh, Press Association

Why is the Pope visiting Ireland?

The World Meeting of Families is being held in Dublin this year.

It has taken place every three years since Pope John Paul II established it in 1994 to strengthen the bonds between families and bear witness to the "crucial importance" of marriage and the family.

There will be many speakers and seminars at events across the capital and the highlight will be the Pope taking part in a session.

As part of it, the Festival of Families is choreographed as a celebration of family life in music song, dance, and spoken word.

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Pope Francis will join an audience of 82,500 in the Croke Park sports stadium where he will hear testimonies from families and see performers like Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.

What else is the Pope going to be doing on Saturday?

He will visit President Michael D Higgins at his home in the Phoenix Park then see Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle for a meeting lasting around 15 minutes.

The subject of his conversation with Mr Varadkar has been the subject of speculation, including whether the Irish premier will raise the clerical sex abuse scandal which has rocked the Catholic church.

The Pope is also expected to visit St Mary's Pro-Cathedral.

He will undertake a private trip to a day centre for homeless families.

Why is he going to Knock shrine on Sunday?

Francis is following in the footsteps of his predecessor John Paul II, who visited the shrine in 1979, a century after an apparition was said to have occurred.

People from the village in Co Mayo in the West of Ireland said they witnessed an apparition of Mary, Joseph, St John the Evangelist, a lamb and cross on an altar at the gable wall of the local parish church.

The witnesses prayed and watched in pouring rain for two hours.

Although they themselves were saturated not a single drop of rain fell on the gable or vision, according to the shrine's website.

There were 15 official witnesses, most of whom were from the village of Knock and surrounding areas aged between five and 74.

Each testified to an official commission of enquiry in October 1879 which deemed them trustworthy and satisfactory.

Where is the final event of the pontiff's trip?

At Dublin's Phoenix Park, site of a towering papal cross where John Paul II said mass.

On September 29, 1979 more than a million people formed the largest gathering of the Irish in history.

This time around, half a million are expected and those travelling have been warned to expect major congestion and urged to use public transport.

Protests are expected to take place, including at Dublin's Garden of Remembrance.

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Pope's visit

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