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Is the Pope coming to Ireland?

The Catholic Communications Office says there’s “no concrete information” about a rumoured visit in 2013.

Image: AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca

THERE’S SPECULATION TODAY that Pope Benedict XVI will embark on a visit to Ireland next year, and will apologise in person to the victims of cleric sex abuse.

According to a report in today’s Irish Daily Mirror, which cites a Catholic Church source, the Pope will visit both Northern Ireland and the Republic and will make at least one public address in which he will apologise to victims of abuse.

Michael Kelly of the Irish Catholic speculated last week that the meeting of Martin McGuinness and Queen Elizabeth II had paved the way for a papal visit to the island.

He told TheJournal.ie that a visit is something that the Vatican have wanted to do for years in order to complete “unfinished business from 1979″ when Pope John Paul II expressed his disappointment at not being able to include a trip to the North in his papal visit to Ireland.

Kelly said that before the 1979 visit there had been a plan to include the North on the itinerary, but that it was feared that a large scale Catholic celebration might inflame tensions.

Pope John Paul II did visit Drogheda in 1979 and appealed for peace, and up until his death in 2005 he said he had a wish to come back and complete his trip.

During his 2010 visit to Britain Pope Benedict was quick to praise the engagement of the Irish and British governments in the peace process and referred to Christianity “in these islands”. Kelly told TheJournal.ie that this provided the “mood music” to setting up a visit.

He also said that the Queen being welcomed to the North by Martin McGuinness as a gesture of goodwill towards unionists opens the door to a similar gesture from unionist leaders.

The Catholic Communications Office has told TheJournal.ie that there is “no concrete information” about a proposed papal visit, but there has been a longstanding invitation for him to visit Ireland since he became pope.

A spokesperson said that the office wouldn’t be privy to plans that far in advance.

Michael Kelly said that a public apology would almost certainly form part of the visit, but that it wouldn’t be the first time the Vatican has apologised. He said however that it would be a chance for a more personal acknowledgement of the abuse perpetrated by members of the church.

Kelly also said that the government has shown “no great warmth” in advance of any proposed visit:

Some of the things Eamon Gilmore has been saying have been remarkable.

Both Gilmore and the Taoiseach Enda Kenny co-hosted a reception for high ranking members of the Catholic Church during the Eucharistic Congress last month, with the Taoiseach saying he did not expect a negative or hostile reaction from church leaders.

Kenny condemned the ‘dysfunction and disconnection” of the Catholic Church in a Dáil speech last July.

In May Eamon Gilmore told the Dáil that Cardinal Seán Brady should not “hold a position of authority” following revelations about abuse carried out by Fr Brendan Smyth.

Closure of Vatican embassy will not be reversed ‘in the immediate term’>

Pope speaks of human weakness in sinful church>

Read: Tánaiste suggests Cardinal Brady should “not hold a position of authority”>

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Emer McLysaght

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