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Dublin: 8 °C Thursday 21 November, 2019
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The Pope spent eight weeks in Ireland learning English

A rumoured visit in 2018 won’t be Jorge Bergoglio’s first visit to these shores.

US Pope Francis Pope Francis waves from inside his car after arriving at Philadelphia International Airport on Saturday. Source: Susan Walsh/AP/Press Association Images

IT LOOKS INCREASINGLY likely that Pope Francis is planning a trip to Ireland in the next couple of years.

The last time a pope visited Ireland was in 1979, and it was no small affair.

Pope John Paul II’s 1979 visit saw crowds of 1.25 million people gather in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.

Pope John Paul II - Phoenix Park Source: PA WIRE

Now it looks like Francis could be making the trip in 2018. He announced yesterday that Dublin will host the World Meeting of Families.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin believes the pope is “determined” to visit.

However, there wasn’t a fuss made about the last time Father Jorge Bergoglio – the name by which the pope was originally known – was here in early 1980.

Vatican Pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio in 2008. Source: Natacha Pisarenko/AP/Press Association Images

The Argentinian spent eight weeks studying English at the Jesuit Milltown Institute in Ranelagh, south Dublin, following an intense period of civil unrest in his own country.

The 44-year-old had finished as provincial superior of the Jesuits in Argentina, and his visit to Ireland is thought to have doubled as some rest and recuperation.

Argentina Pope Stop Pope Francis, then Argentina's cardinal, travelling on a subway in Buenos Aires, 2008. Source: Pablo Leguizamon/AP/Press Association Images

A spokesperson for the institute said Bergoglio was remembered as a quiet man who focused on his studies.

Evidence of his visit was discovered after he became pope in 2013 and records of the institute were sifted through.

A ledger revealed he had requested £7 for cassettes and another £14 for English lessons.

Bergoglio-Milltown-01 A note showing Bergoglio's request for money to buy cassette tapes. Source: Irish Jesuit Provincialate

Speaking to The Sean O’Rourke Show on RTÉ Radio 1, Father Donal Neary recalled his memories of Bergoglio.

Neary said he had very little English – which he doesn’t believe improved much during this stay – but that the pope-to-be worked on his skills.

Speaking to the same programme, Father John O’Connor, who worked with the pope in Buenos Aires, said he believes Pope Francis is eager to visit Ireland in order to “heal wounds”.

He noted that addressing clerical sex abuse scandals is high on the pope’s agenda, having said he is “overwhelmed with shame” by the actions of some Catholic priests.

“He’s conscious that Ireland suffered a lot,” O’Conor said.

Read: The Pope has dropped the biggest hint yet that he’s coming to Ireland in 2018 >

Poll: Would you like to see Pope Francis visit Ireland? >

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Nicky Ryan

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