Church sources have played down the possibility that the Pontiff might travel to Dublin for the major international gathering of Catholics following a meeting yesterday in Rome between Pope Benedict and the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin.
Instead, it is believed that the 84-year-old Pope will make a live televised address to the crowd of more than 80,000 due to attend the highlight of the eight-day event — an open-air Mass in Croke Park entitled Statio Orbis on June 17.
However, the Pope has still not formally indicated if he intends to attend the Congress amid fears by the Church authorities in Ireland that his presence could spark major protests and detract from the congress itself.
Dr Martin was part of an Irish delegation which visited the Vatican as part of the preparations for the congress, which takes place on June 10-17.
The organising committee presented the Pope with a bowl of shamrock to mark St Patrick’s Day, while he also symbolically rang a special bell as a calling for Catholics to gather for the congress.
After the meeting, Dr Martin said that the Pope had appeared interested in preparations for the congress.
Dr Martin, who has been a vocal critic of the Church’s handling of clerical sex abuse, had previously stated that a papal visit to Ireland to attend the congress would be premature against a background of recent sex abuse scandals in Dublin and Cloyne and the strained relationship between the Government and the Vatican.
Fr Kevin Doran, the secretary general of the congress, said the Pope made no reference to his invitation to visit Ireland for the congress during their meeting yesterday.