Northern Ireland news

Pope set to include Armagh in expected visit to Ireland in 2018

Speculation is mounting that Pope Francis will visit Ireland in 2018. Picture by Andrew Medichini
Gareth McKeown

THE Pope is set to include Armagh in an expected visit to Ireland in 2018.

The Irish Catholic newspaper has reported that Pope Francis is likely to preside at the next World Meeting of Families in Dublin.

If it comes to pass it will be only the second visit by a pontiff to Ireland and a first north of the border.

During Pope John Paul II's three-day visit in 1979 more than 2.5 million people attended events in Dublin, Drogheda, Clonmacnois, Galway, Knock, Limerick and Maynooth.

The Pope had also hoped to visit Armagh, the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland, but the security situation at the time prevented a trip, with Drogheda, situated in the Archdiocese of Armagh, chosen as an alternative.

The Irish Catholic said Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has confirmed that when he discussed the idea of coming to Ireland with Pope Francis, he told him he or his successor "will come".

The paper also quoted a "well-placed Vatican source" as saying: “The only live invitation for Pope Francis to visit Ireland is earmarked for the time of the World Meeting of Families, and all the indications from Rome are very positive about this.

“It would obviously be the hope that the Holy Father would make a visit to Northern Ireland and, perhaps, some other parts of Ireland since many Irish Catholics will want to have an opportunity to attend Mass with Pope Francis."

The Pope has been invited on numerous occasions to visit Ireland since his one and only trip 37 years ago, but speculation increased last September when it was announced that the Pontiff had chosen Dublin to host 2018's World Meeting of Families, an international gathering which takes place every three years.

Popes have presided at all bar two of the eight meetings held since the first Vatican-sponsored event in 1994.

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