Hopes are high in Ireland that Pope Francis will visit in 2018, the first Pontiff to do so since Pope John Paul’s historic trip in 1979.
It will be discussed at the Synod of Bishops in Rome some time between between 4 and 25 October.
It follows his announcement while in Philadelphia on his US trip that the next Catholic World Meeting of Families – held every three years – will take place in Dublin.
The event was established in 1994 by Pope John Paul II and attended by him and was also presided over by Pope Benedict.
The announcement that it would be held in Dublin was made during the concluding mass of Pope Francis’s 10-day pastoral visit to Cuba and the United States.
Pope Francis, a Jesuit, has been to Ireland – to learn English. He spent three months in Dublin in 1980, as Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio, then aged 43, at the Jesuits’ Milltown Institute in Ranelagh.
He had been for a number of years previously the head of the Jesuit order in Argentina at a time of great danger for social progressives and human rights activists.
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said: “He has a great liking for Ireland and he has a concern for Ireland. He is determined, I think, to see the next World Meeting of Families through and to be in Ireland but it’s too early to say that yet.
“I think he would like to (visit). He did learn some English in Ireland and he remembers being in Ireland, it’s a long time ago, anytime he has spoken to me he is quite aware of what life is like in Ireland, the difficulties the Church has gone through in Ireland and his hope that a renewal of the Church in Ireland will come through the renewal of family life.”
“I think he is aware of the damage what was done by the child sexual abuse scandal. He has said that to me on occasion. And, he is aware of the fact that Irish society is changing.
“The place of family in society is changing very much – in western society in general – and he would be aware that that is happening in Ireland.”
He said he would be speaking to the Pope during the Rome synod.
High Hopes for Pope Visit
“All of these things are completely open (and transparent),” he said.
Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland Eamon Martin said: “I look forward to sharing the joy of this announcement with Archbishop Diarmuid, my fellow bishops and with people from all around the country as we begin thinking about how, together, we can best plan to make this significant international event a success,”
He confirmed that the 2018 Catholic World Meeting of Families will be in Dublin but said there was no confirmation yet that the Pope, who will be 81 that year, will come to Ireland with it.
“If he does come, I think it would be wonderful if he also makes a journey to Northern Ireland, if only to underline the huge advances we’ve made towards peace. People across the communities have told me the pope would be made very welcome here.”