POPE FRANCIS PLANS to visit Ireland in August next year, the Vatican confirmed today, four months after Taoiseach Enda Kenny announced what will be a landmark trip.
A senior Vatican official told journalists that Pope Francis “will do everything he can” to attend the World Meeting of Families.
Cardinal Kevin Farrell announced plans and final dates for the ninth edition of the gathering of Catholic families, which is to take place on 21-26 August 2018.
Francis will be the first pope to visit Ireland since John Paul II in 1979.
Kenny ruffled feathers by announcing the pope’s plans to visit after an audience at the Vatican in November, at which point the Holy See had not even confirmed any of the pontiff’s 2017 travel plans.
The Taoiseach has praised Pope Francis for improving the church’s efforts to combat sex abuse by clerics – an issue on which he had accused the Vatican of “dysfunction, disconnection and elitism” in 2011.
At their meeting in November, Kenny and Francis discussed the possibility of the pope’s visit including a leg in Northern Ireland.
No decisions have been made on that front amid fears of the region’s peace deal unravelling due to Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.
Cardinal Farrell told reporters the theme of the 2018 World Families Meetings would be the Church’s conception of married life between a man and a woman.
The last gathering of its kind, in Philadelphia in 2015, was also addressed by Pope Francis, who has made family life one of the central themes of his papacy.