Irish delegation meets Pope as part of Congress preparations

Irish delegation meets Pope as part of Congress preparations

An Irish delegation has met Pope Benedict XVI today as part of preparations for the International Eucharistic Congress (IEC2012) taking place here this summer.

The pontiff received the group during an audience in Saint Peter's Square this morning.

They presented him with the Eucharistic Congress Bell, which has been rung by 250,000 people in Ireland already, across 1,000 parishes.

The bell is symbolically calling people from across the world to Dublin for the Congress, which takes place from June 10-17.

The delegation was headed by the President of IEC2012, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, accompanied by Secretary General of IEC2012, Fr Kevin Doran, and members of IEC2012 staff.

Fr Doran said the Pope also rang the bell, but did not offer any hints as to whether he would visit Ireland during the Congress.

"All of those communities are now brought in some way into a relationship with the Pope and with the universal church, through the presence of the bell here in Rome," Fr Doran said.

"One of the questions which has surfaced over the last couple of years is whether the Pope might come to the Congress.

"We have no indication at this stage in relation to that, but what we can say now is that the Congress has come to the Pope."

Later today the bell will move to St Peter’s Basilica where it will remain for Mass at 5pm.

This week the bell will travel to St Isidore's Irish Franciscan College in Rome, where this year’s St Patrick’s Day Mass will be celebrated on Saturday March 17.

Also attending this Mass will be Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte as part of his visit to Italy for St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Tradition has it that St Patrick left a bell in each church he consecrated as a way to call people to the Eucharist.

Since commencing phase one of its pilgrimage on St Patrick’s Day in 2011, the bell has visited the 26 dioceses of Ireland, over 1,000 parishes, more than 100 schools, and a dozen hospitals and nursing homes, calling people to ‘Come to the Congress’.

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