Pope Francis will do ‘everything he can’ to visit Ireland next year according to a senior Vatican official.
It is hoped the Pope will be able to attend the church’s World Meeting of Families in Dublin in August 2018.
The World Meeting of Families is held every three years and is a gathering of the Catholic Church. It is arranged by Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.
Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Holy See’s Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, said: “If the Pope is possibly able to be there, and circumstances around the world permit him to be able to go there, I’m sure he will do everything he possibly can, at least that’s what he has expressed, to be there.
The Pope 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.”
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said: “If he does come, he’ll surprise us and challenge us.
“It will be very different from an earlier visit, the only time a pope came to Ireland. Ireland has changed. The Pope has changed and he will live up to challenging us.”
If Pope Francis does come to Ireland, it will be the first visit by the pontiff since Pope John Paul II toured the country in 1979.
At the time he was unable to visit Northern Ireland due to security fears, and travelled only as far as Drogheda, Co Louth where he addressed hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom had come from the North.
Ireland’s relationship with the Catholic Church was put under further strain following the uncovering of decades of child sex abuse within the Church.
Only five years ago, Taoiseach Enda Kenny described the Holy See as “a dysfunctional, elite hierarchy” which was determined to frustrate the investigations of “a sovereign, democratic republic”.
The Vatican responded by recalling its ambassador to Ireland, and shutting the Irish Embassy to the Holy See in Rome. It was reopened three years later.