Pope Francis is set to visit Ireland, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has confirmed.
The Archbishop of Dublin previously revealed that he had invited Francis to preside at the World Meeting of Families, a Vatican-sponsored event that is due to take place in Dublin 2018.
Now, this week, Dr Martin has confirmed that when he discussed the issue of visiting Ireland with the Pontiff, Francis said “‘I will come’, and he said, ‘if I don’t come, my successor will come’,” indicating that the 2018 encounter is high on the papal agenda.
As well as Dublin, the Pope would visit the North to complete the 1979 historic pilgrimage of St John Paul II when rising tensions in the North made a visit there impossible.
“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,” a well-placed Vatican source told The Irish Catholic this week.
“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 source continued.
There has been speculation that the Pontiff would visit Ireland since he announced in Philadelphia last September that he 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 meeting in 1994.
Following the Philadelphia announcement, Dr Martin said he hoped to have an opportunity in October to discuss a potential papal visit with the Pope and Vatican officials, and said if Pope Francis visited Ireland he would “certainly” wish to visit the North. The Holy See has long regarded St John Paul II’s 1979 visit as incomplete due to his inability to cross the border.
It is expected that as well as visiting Dublin and the North, most probably Armagh, a papal visit to Ireland will include pilgrimages to one of Ireland’s historic monastic sites and to Knock Shrine, trips to Marian shrines being common features of papal visits. St John Paul II visited the shrine and celebrated Mass there during his 1979 visit.
Archbishop Martin was speaking to Irish Independent journalist Paul Williams in a wide-ranging interview in which he also dismissed suggestions that he had been sent to Dublin as a sort of “saviour” for the Irish Church.
“Some people say to me I came home with a packet of instructions from the Vatican saying you’re to clear up Dublin,” he said, continuing, “That wasn’t the case – the Vatican is not nearly as well organised as that.”