Pope Francis Plans to Visit Ireland in 2018

Holy Father expected to visit Dublin during World Meeting of Families.

(photo: Edward Pentin/NCRegister.com)

Pope Francis is very likely to visit Ireland in 2018 to coincide with the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, it emerged today after the Holy Father met in private audience Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny.

Unlike recent false rumors of papal visits after papal audiences with senior politicians this year, this one looks set to take place after the Vatican pointed to the World Meeting scheduled for 22-26 August, 2018.

Since the inception of the World Meeting of Families in 1994, only once has a pope not attended the event.

However, the Vatican won’t officially confirm a papal visit until around six months before it is scheduled to take place.

The news of the probable visit initially broke after Kenny's meeting with the Pope at the Vatican earlier today. Afterwards he tweeted that Francis “has been an important voice for the young, the poor and disadvantaged. Glad he will visit Ireland in 2018”.

The Vatican did not mention the visit in its statement on today’s meeting, but some are already speculating that Francis will also visit Northern Ireland — something Pope St. John Paul II wasn’t able to do because of the political violence taking place there when he became the first and most recent pontiff to visit Ireland in 1979.

But the so-called “Troubles” have long passed, and Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, once himself a senior figure in the paramilitary Irish Republican Army, told reporters today that the Pope would visit the north.  

McGuinness told journalists: "I've been around a long time and I know how these things work."

Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh and primate of Ireland said: "We would love to think that if the Pope is coming to Ireland that perhaps he might be able to visit Northern Ireland at the same time.”

Archbishop Martin said the visit would be a "deeply symbolic and powerful moment" for those in Northern Ireland, coming after the visit of the Queen and the first state visit of Irish President Michael Higgins to London.

"That would be in my mind completed by a visit by the Holy Father to Northern Ireland, where he will be welcomed by members of all the traditions here," he said, according to the BBC.

In May this year, the Pope decided that the World Meeting of Families would be held in Dublin in August 2018, with the theme “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World”.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin said at the time of the announcement that he hoped the meeting would be an “important milestone in the application of the fruits of the Synodal process and of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Letitia”.

The World Meeting website predicted, however, that any papal trip may be limited. “Given the age of Pope Francis, a possible visit of the Pope in 2018 would inevitably have a more restricted program than that of the Papal Visit of Pope Saint John Paul II in 1979”, the organizers wrote.

A papal visit to Ireland could be very timely for the Church in the country which has significantly suffered from the clerical sex abuse crisis, a culture of corruption, and being too closely tied to the state. So poor did the Church and the Vatican become perceived that the Irish government closed its embassy to the Holy See in 2011 and moved its ambassador to Ireland, only to reopen it in 2014.

Once dubbed “the most Catholic country in the world” by the future Pope Paul VI, whose missionaries heroically took the Gospel to far flung corners of the globe, Ireland has become increasingly secular, legalizing same-sex ‘marriage’ in a referendum last year and amending its Constitution to do so, despite it being written “In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity”.  

Some criticized the nation’s hierarchy for "muddying the waters" to allow the vote to pass. The Pope was also censured for not speaking out against same-sex ‘marriage’ ahead of the referendum.

Increasing pressure is now being placed on the government to relax the nation’s laws on abortion where the practice remains illegal unless it occurs as the result of a medical intervention performed to save the life of the mother.

A papal visit could therefore be a golden opportunity to help set a lot of grave wrongs right.