President McAleese to visit Vatican next month

The President will make her first official state visit to the Vatican next month.

The President will make her first official state visit to the Vatican next month.

The Irish Catholic newspaper is reporting that Mary McAleese will be received by Pope Benedict in the week after Saint Patrick's Day.

The President's visit to the Vatican on March 23rd will be her third meeting with the pontiff since his election almost two years ago.

Mary McAleese met Benedict XVI on the day of his inauguration in April 2005 and again in a private capacity with her family in July the same year.

Vatican officials said Mrs McAleese will be welcomed by the pontiff in his private apartments where she will present him with a gift from the people of Ireland.

During the meeting, the President is likely to discuss the invitation extended to the Pope to visit this country by Archbishop Sean Brady on behalf of the Irish Bishops' Conference.

Pope Benedict is understood to have a keen interest in Irish affairs but, as is tradition, he has neither accepted nor declined the invitation.

However, it is understood that outline negotiations have taken place between the Holy See and the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland.

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