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Concert for Pope to feature Riverdance, Daniel O'Donnell and 'one of the largest stages ever' in Croke Park

Pope Francis arrives in Ireland on 25 August.

Some of the cast that will feature in Croke Park.
Some of the cast that will feature in Croke Park.
Image: Twitter/WMOF2018

A CONCERT TO be held in Croke Park in honour of the Pope’s visit will feature 2,000 performers and “one of the largest stages” ever put on the hallowed turf.

Pope Francis will be Ireland for less than 36 hours during his two-day visit on 25-26 August and he will attend a large concert in Croke Park called the Festival of Families on his first day.

The date of this year’s All-Ireland football and hurling finals were changed to make the venue available for the Pope and Catholic organisers have today released details of the concert.

Acts who will perform as part of the show include: Daniel O’Donnell, Nathan Carter, Riverdance, Dana Masters, The Begley Family, The Priests, Deaftones, and Moya Brennan.

The Pope’s presence in Ireland is part of the week-long World Meeting of Families and organisers have been working with Tyrone Productions on the Croke Park show.

Creative director of the event Ruán Magan said this afternoon that the layout of the stage has been designed so that Pope Francis will be amongst the crowd.

“We’ve designed this circle that reaches about 60 metres out in to the pitch and there’s a ramp that goes down to a small circle that sits inside, and that is where Pope Francis will sit. He very much asked to sit among the people, he didn’t want to sit on the stage, he wanted to be with everybody enjoying the show,” Magan explained.

It’s one of the largest stages that’s ever been put on in Croke Park. It has amazing screens, which are the third largest that have ever been put there, so it’s a huge stage. We’ve 2,000 performers. In one act there’s a choir of maybe 1,000 that sings together. We’ve hundreds of dancers and there’s one special moment where 500 children dance together, so it’s all about the many coming together.

In all about 77,000 thousand people will be inside Croke Park during the event with organisers saying that Pope Francis will deliver an address before he departs the stadium.

The show will also hear the testimonies of five families from different parts of the world; Ireland, Canada, India, Iraq and Africa.

Speaking at the launch of the programme today, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said many will be coming from abroad for the event.

“Many would come out to see any Pope coming to Ireland, for others, Pope Francis has a special appeal, he’s a sort of global religious star who’s simple humanity and human warmth attracts.”

Pope Francis, who is over 80, appears as a modern Pope and people like that. Pope Francis is for many hard to understand, especially in an Ireland where people have had a black and white understanding of faith. Sins were sins and that was it. Many find it hard to understand a Pope who can reaffirm doctrines and moral norms and yet that people live in grey areas and that that does not exclude them.

Asked about allegations that same-sex couples have been excluded as part of the World Meeting of Families, Martin said that a three-day Pastoral Congress in Dublin’s RDS will discuss issues around this.

“The overall thrust of the preparation has been welcoming everybody and that remains the thrust and we’re very cautious and careful to ensure that remains the thrust,” Martin said.

(Click here if video doesn’t play)

The Archbishop of Dublin was also asked about reports that Pope Francis would visit a former Magdalene laundry during his time in Ireland.

Such a visit has not been included in the Pope’s itinerary while he’s here but a report in today’s Irish Catholic stated that it was under consideration.

Martin said today such suggestions were speculation.

“The question of all victims will be looked at,” he stated.

There are victims of institutions, survivors of abuse by priests, Magdalene laundries, mother and baby homes, we’re looking at all those areas and we’re looking at ways in which that can be done with discretion and be done in the time that’s available to the Pope, but anybody who is speculating, is speculating.

“It’s a very difficult situation, I have met with representatives of all those groups, I appreciate their sensitivity, I appreciate their anguish and maybe at times their anger, and we have to find a way we can address those, it’s being looked at,” Martin added.

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Rónán Duffy

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