Northern Ireland news

Pope 'disappointed' he will not visit north during Irish visit

Pope Francis will arrive in Ireland for a two-day visit in August. Picture by Andrew Medichini, Associated Press

THE Pope is "disappointed" he is not visiting Northern Ireland as part of a two-day trip in August, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has said.

Details of the Pope's visit to the Republic, including a trip to Knock Shrine in Co Mayo, were announced today.

It was hoped he would visit Northern Ireland as part of the visit, however it has been confirmed by the Vatican that the Pope will not cross the border.

Asked if Pope Francis is disappointed by this, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said: "Of course there is disappointment.

"We were hoping this was going to be the opportunity (to visit Northern Ireland). But the pressure of this event has overtaken that."

Pope Francis: Full details of visit

He added that the Pope has not ruled out the opportunity to visit Northern Ireland on a separate trip.

The pontiff will visit Knock shrine as part of his two-day trip on August 25 and 26.

Pope Francis has offered the possibility of indulgences for participants in the World Meeting of Families

The visit is to co-incide with the World Meeting of Families, which is held by the Catholic Church every three years. The meeting is being held in Dublin this year.

During the trip Pope Francis will meet President Michael D Higgins and visit St Mary's Pro-Cathedral. He will also make a private visit to a homeless centre run by the Capuchin Fathers before attending the Festival of Families in Croke Park.

On the second day of his trip, the pontiff will visit Knock shrine. Later that day he will celebrate the closing mass of the World Meeting of Families in Phoenix Park, which is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.

It will be the first Papal visit to Ireland since 1979 when Pope John Paul said Mass in Phoenix Park to more than one million people. During that visit, the Pope travelled as far north as Drogheda, but security fears prevented his crossing the border to visit Armagh.

Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar said he looked forward to welcoming Pope Francis.

"This will be a significant visit by a global and spiritual leader to Ireland and is the first visit of a Pontiff here in almost 40 years," he said.

"This is also a hugely important opportunity to showcase Ireland as images of this visit will be viewed around the globe."

Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, from the Clogher Diocese, said the northern bishops had asked if Pope Francis could cross the border.

"As a cross-border Diocese, it was a heartfelt wish for us that the Pope could have visited the north of Ireland, and this request was made very earnestly by the leaders of all the northern dioceses, as well as the leaders of the main Christian churches," he said.

"We understand that, given the brief duration of the visit and its focus of the celebration of the World Meeting of Families, a visit to the north will not be included in the Pope's itinerary.

"Many of us are understandably disappointed, but we have to bear in mind also that Pope Francis is not a young man and this places limits on the amount he can do in one short trip.

"We are encouraged that the possibility of a future visit to the north is under consideration. Such a visit would be a source of encouragement and support for all the people of the north who have endured so much and worked so hard for peace and reconciliation."


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