Pope Francis plans to visit Ireland in August next year, the Vatican confirmed this afternoon
Pope Francis announced that the 9th World Meeting of Families will be held in Dublin, Ireland, next year between 21-26 August.
The Vatican has said that the Pope plans to be in Dublin for the conference because its key note subject is central to his papacy.
There are no plans, as yet, for the Pope to visit Northern Ireland although the late Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness said last year – when the visit was first mooted – that he fully expected the papal itinerary would include an engagement north of the border.
Armagh is the ancient ecclesiastical capital of all Ireland.
The Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin was in Rome for the announcement and said he believed the visit – only the second ever Papal visit to Ireland after John Paul’s in 1979 – would be an opportunity for the Church in Ireland to renew itself.
In the time since that 1979 visit Ireland had undergone immense changes, said Dr Martin.
The sexual abuse of children by priests and religious had taken a heavy toll on the church and the faith of the Irish people and, he said, “it was felt most deeply in families.”
He acknowledged that Ireland today is “a modern society” with “its mix of secularization and faith.
Despite the challenges this would pose in organizing the event he said it can demonstrate “how important the family is for the future of Ireland and of the wider society, especially in Europe.”
In a letter by Pope Francis read by Archbishop Martin the pontiff said “my thoughts go in a special way to the archdiocese of Dublin and to all the dear Irish nation for the generous welcome and commitment involved in hosting such an important event.”
He prayed that it would bring them “abundant heavenly favors.”
The world meeting will focus on the theme “The Gospel of the Family: joy for the world,” said Pope Francis in the letter.
The conference will seek to build on the Pope’s encyclical about married love, “Amoris Laetitia.”
And, the organisers said, it will focus on much more than just the question of allowing divorcees to remarry in the Church or take communion.
Pope Francis says family is God’s “yes” to “the union between man and woman, in openness and service to life in all its phases,” and it is God’s “commitment to a humanity that is often wounded, mistreated and dominated by a lack of love.”
It is only by “starting from love,” said Pope Francis, that the family “can manifest, spread and regenerate God’s love in the world. Without love, we cannot live as children of God, as couples, parents and brothers.”
Archbishop Martin said the innovative” element of the conference is “the emphasis on the central place that the family is called to play in realizing this great dream of renewal of the pope.”
He said Pope Francis had written: “I dream of an outbound church, not a self-referential one, a church that does not pass by far from man’s wounds, a merciful church that proclaims the heart of the revelation of God as Love, which is Mercy.”
“It is this very mercy that makes us new in love; and we know how much Christian families are a place of mercy and witnesses of mercy and even more so after the extraordinary Jubilee.”
Archbishop Martin said of Amoris Laetitia’s observations on marriage that they recognise a moment in which the daily love of husbands and wives and the daily love of parents for their children can be recognized as a fundamental resource for the renewal of the church and of society.
“The church must be a place where those who have failed can experience not harsh judgment but the strong embrace of the Lord which can lift them up to begin again to realize their own dream even if only imperfectly,” the archbishop said.
He announced that the Dublin world meeting will be prepared by “an extensive catechesis on the meaning of conjugal and family love and on the role of the family in society.”
It will be “a moment of renewal for the church in Ireland with wide involvement of lay faithful” and “a moment in which the role of the family can be understood in greater depth.”
It will also be an opportunity for families to “regain confidence in carrying out their mission in the context of a church which is merciful and which accompanies them in the ups-and-downs of their lives.”