The Archbishop of Dublin has said it is “too early to know” if the Pope will attend the World Meeting of Families which has been confirmed for Dublin from August 22 to 26, 2018.
However, Diarmuid Martin has forecast that if Pope Francis does come, he will bring a gesture of peace and reconciliation to the North.
Confirmation of the dates for the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) was made in a press conference in the Vatican yesterday morning.
The Pope has traditionally attended the event in whichever country it has been held — and has indicated that either he or a successor will attend the Dublin meeting.
Last week, his attendance appeared to have been confirmed with even an itinerary being detailed in media reports.
However, following yesterday’s press conference, the Archdiocese of Dublin issued its own statement: “It is too early to know if Pope Francis will attend the WMOF. His programme is normally announced just a few months prior to any event. The Pope has expressed his desire to attend, and such a visit of the Pope would bring great joy to Irish Catholics and others. But the final decision will depend on many factors.”
It added that, given the age of Pope Francis, “a possible visit of the Pope in 2018 would inevitably have a more restricted programme than that of the papal visit of Pope Saint John Paul II in 1979”.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin later told RTÉ: “I have been asked a lot will the Pope come to Ireland, and especially will the Pope go to Northern Ireland. I don’t know. I have a feeling that, knowing Pope Francis, who is a great master of a gesture, that he could bring some sort of gesture of peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland in a way that few other people could do it.
“His gestures are always spontaneous ones and ones of great surprise. I was asked if I had any idea what the gesture could be. I said ‘leave it to the Pope and he will surprise us’.”
According to the Catholic Communications Office, the World Meeting of Families is held every three years and seeks to strengthen the bonds between families and “to witness to the crucial importance of marriage and the family to all of society”.
It was first celebrated in Rome in 1994 and since then meetings have been hosted in Rio de Janeiro (1997); Rome (2000); Manila (2003); Valencia (2006); Mexico City (2009); Milan (2012); Philadelphia (2015); and now Dublin (2018).
An estimated 17,000 pilgrims from about 100 countries attended the event in Philadelphia.
The Dublin meeting will begin with a major conference which will last for three days at which international speakers will address the challenges of the family.
On Saturday, August 25, a larger function of testimonies will be held to celebrate the place of the family in the Church and a final Mass will conclude the meeting on the early afternoon of Sunday, August 26.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said Ireland “despite what many think”, has a strong family culture and is a young country.
“That said, Ireland is a very open country and is open to all the pressures of Western secular culture regarding marriage and the family.
“The theme chosen for the World Meeting of Families thus wishes to stress the role of the family within society and the contribution of families to the overall health and stability of society.”
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