Pope Francis will visit Ireland in August

The Vatican has confirmed that Pope Francis will come to Ireland to participate in the final two days of the World Meeting of Families in Dublin on 25- 26 August. Pope Francis will take part in a faith-based cultural concert, the Festival of Families, in Croke Park on the first day of his trip and will be the chief celebrant at a special Sunday Mass in Phoenix Park on the second day. His visit will conclude the ninth gathering of the festival, which will be supported by all 26 dioceses across the island.

Senior church leaders have welcomed the news of Pope Francis’ trip – almost 40 years after the first papal visit to Ireland. A joint statement from the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference said they are “deeply honoured” that Pope Francis will participate in a universal Church celebration of faith and joy “which no doubt will be an occasion of spiritual renewal for our laity, religious and clergy, as well as a strengthening of Christian family life”.

Rev Trevor Gribben, the General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Clerk of the General Assembly, said that many Catholics, both south and north of the border, have reason to be “excited and encouraged” by the visit. He is confident that many people of differing theological and political views will want to “join our Catholic neighbours” in welcoming the Pope. “The attendance of Pope Francis at the World Meeting of Families will greatly enhance the affirmation of the place of the family at the heart of society, and that is to be welcomed,” he said.

The Primate of All Ireland and senior leaders of the Church of Ireland repeated their previous welcome of Pope Francis’ visit. The Most Rev Dr Richard Clarke said any joint visit would be “remarkable and wonderful” and that church bishop would be very happy to see the Pope in Ireland, north or south.

Rev Harold Good, former Methodist Church president who oversaw IRA decommissioning in 2005, said the planned visit would be an opportunity to enhance relations further between the Protestant and Catholic communities. “I am very pleased for my Roman Catholic friends,” he said. “Pope Francis is a universally respected person, not just for his own views and ecumenical spirit but for his integrity and humble approach.

Although there has been no mention of a visit to Northern Ireland, Good remarked: “This will be particularly good for relations within Northern Ireland and will give us the opportunity to share in our neighbours’ joy.”

The Pope’s visit will take place in the wake of a deeply divisive referendum on abortion in the Republic and could attract protests. Rev Good said he believes that Pope Francis will attract large crowds despite serious controversies which have blighted the Catholic Church in recent years. He added,”This visit will lay to rest the prejudices and fears of the past.”

“Many people will be interested in what he has to say, particularly at this time,” Good said. “I would hope this gives them encouragement and confidence to move beyond recent scandals – not to forget or minimise them, but to allow us all to be the people we are called to be.”

ACN Malta