Pope Francis may visit Ireland in 2018 after announcing the world’s largest gathering of Catholic families is to be held in Dublin.
He made the announcement at the concluding mass of the World Meeting of Families which ended in Philadelphia on Sunday. It was the final stage of Pope Francis’ historic trip to the US.
Before the mass which was attended by one million people, the Pope greeted Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia.
The Catholic World Meeting of Families is staged every three years in a different location around the world and is usually attended by the pope.
The announcement that the meeting will take place in Ireland was made at the conclusion of Pope Francis’s ten- day pastoral visit to Cuba and the US.
Archbishop Eamon Martin, the Primate of All-Ireland, said: “I am delighted to hear that Pope Francis has announced that the ninth World Meeting of Families will take place in Dublin, and that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin is in Philadelphia with our delegation to hear the news directly from the Holy Father.
“Three years ago the 50th International Eucharistic Congress was a great celebration of faith for Ireland, and it attracted pilgrims from all around the world..”
If the Pope comes to Ireland, it will be the first papal visit here since Pope St John Paul II’s visit in 1979. It will not be his first visit, however, as he spent three months in Dublin in 1980 when, aged 43, he came to study at the Jesuit-run Milltown Institute in Ranelagh.
Catholic Primate of All Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin said he was delighted by the announcement and was confident the World Meeting of Families will be an “uplifting event for all of us”.
The Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles John Brown, said it was his ‘fervent hope’ that the possibility of the pope visiting Ireland will be realised.
“Pope Francis is well aware that many people in Ireland would love for him to come and visit,” he said, echoing the view earlier yesterday of Archbishop Martin who said he felt the pope would like to come here.
“He learned some English in Ireland and he remembers being in Ireland,” said Archbishop Martin. “Any time he has spoken to me he is quite aware of what life is like in Ireland and the difficulties the Church has gone through here and hopes that a renewal of the Church in Ireland will come through a renewal of family life.”
If the Pope does decide to come, it is likely that he will include Northern Ireland in his itinerary. The archbishop added that Pope Francis was well aware of the tribulations of the Catholic Church in Ireland in recent times. “He is aware of the damage done by the child sexual abuse scandal,” he said, speaking on RTÉ radio.
“He has said that to me on occasion. He is aware that Irish society is changing. He has talked about the social ethics of family is changing very much in western society in general and he would be aware of what is happening in Ireland.”
The announcement that Dublin is to host the gathering of families comes in advance of the start of the world synod of Bishops which takes place in Rome from October 5 to 26 – themed, “the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world”.
A final decision on whether the Pope will travel to Ireland is expected to emerge at the synod.
The World Meeting of Families was first held in Rome in 1994, the International Year of the Family.
Sponsored by the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for the Family, the gathering takes place every three years and is the Catholic Church’s largest international gathering of families.
The idea originated with Pope St John Paul II in 1992 as a way of strengthening the bonds of the traditional family unit.
This year’s event took place in Philadelphia, US, last weekend, while the 2018 event will be held in Dublin.
Each World Meeting of Families has a theme that “energises and enlivens the event while seeking to add depth of meaning to our understanding of families”.
At the conference, families come together from all over the world to share their thoughts, experiences and prayers and attend social gatherings, lectures and talks by speakers.
Each meeting has a theme designed to strengthen family bonds. Philadelphia was the eighth conference and its theme was ‘Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive’. The World Meeting of Families was held in Philadelphia last week and was the original reason that Pope Francis decided to come to the United States.
The pope capped a 10-day trip to Cuba and the US by celebrating mass in front of hundreds of thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia on Sunday.
Previous meetings were held in Rome in 1994, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1997, Rome in 2000, Manila, the Philippines in 2003, Valencia, Spain, in 2006, Mexico City, in 2009 and Milan in 2012.
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