Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who is currently on a state visit to Rome, has invited Pope Francis to visit Ireland.
Mr Kenny was in St Peter’s Square yesterday to mark the double canonisation of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.
Later, at the Irish College in Rome he said that the relation between the church and the state in Ireland had become ‘closer and healthier’.
After meeting with the current pope he made the announcement that he had extended an invitation for the pontiff to visit Ireland.
Mr Kenny said: “I invited him to Ireland, and while it’s not an official responsibility of the Government, I did say that if the church authorities extended an invitation and he’s willing to travel, the Government will see to it that everything is done to make that visit a real success.”
He also said that he hoped the Pope would visit Northern Ireland as well as well as the Republic. He said: “It is my hope that the pope would travel to Northern Ireland as well, given the changed events in politics where the circle of history has closed following the Queen’s visit to Ireland and the recent visit to England by President Higgins.”
The Taoiseach added that he has been impressed with the Pope Francis since his papacy began in March last year. He said: “His work, his activities, are creating a very different impression of a church which he understands has to be based on simplicity and on the needs of people, and I think that the 12 months he’s been in his pontificate, he’s made an extraordinary difference to the perception of the Catholic Church.”
More than a million people attended Phoenix Park in Dublin when Pope John Paul II visited Ireland in 1979.