Archbishop disappointed Pope will not visit N Ireland on visit to Republic

Archbishop Eamon Martin said he is disappointed that Pope Francis is not visiting Northern Ireland when he travels to the Republic of Ireland in August.

Details of the Pope's visit to Ireland and the World Meeting of Families' itinerary were announced on Monday.

There was an expectation the Pope would visit Northern Ireland as part of the Ireland trip, but it was confirmed on Monday that he will not cross the border.

Archbishop Eamon Martin
Archbishop Eamon Martin

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said there was disappointment at this decision.

"We were really hoping this might be an opportunity and I think he really would love to come to Northern Ireland but I suppose the pressures of this particular event and all he wants to do for the World Meeting of the families has overtaken that.

"I don't get any sense from those I have been speaking to that the Holy Father is ruling out the possibility of ever coming to Northern Ireland.

"I think there will have to be a specific visit and I hope it will be soon."

As part of his trip, the Pope will be flown to Knock in Co Mayo for a visit to the Chapel of Knock Shrine.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said victims and survivors of clerical abuse meeting the Pope are high on the list of priorities.

Speaking at the launch of the Pope's schedule in Maynooth, Dr Martin said: "The Pope will meet with various groups.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

"In other visits across the world he has met with survivors. Generally speaking, he has met them quietly to respect their anonymity and we'd be looking at the way that can be done.

"There are a wide range of people who are survivors of institutions, of abuse by priests, and of mother and baby homes.

"We'd find a way which the Pope can address concerns of all of those people but we have many meetings.

"I get five letters a day from people wanting to meet the Pope and certainly victims and survivors are high on the list of priorities.

"It's a challenge for all of us."

Volunteers disassemble a backdrop
Volunteers disassemble a backdrop

The estimated cost of the Pope's visit is 20 million euro, and will be paid for by fundraising, the Catholic Church and the Irish Government.

He will visit Ireland on Saturday August 25 and Sunday 26.

Dr Eamon Martin also said child abuse is one of the "horrific realities" of the church in Ireland.

"It's been traumatic for anyone who has experienced that and that trauma has rippled through and destroyed so many people around them and their family life.

"I hope we will have a sense of direction in moving forward and how to reach out to those who are suffering in this way and in other ways in the church."

Dr Martin was also asked whether members of the LGBT community can volunteer at the festival.

He said: "I've absolutely no idea that people will be asked their sexual orientation when becoming a volunteer but I imagine that all those visiting, as visitors, as participants, that we don't necessarily reveal our sexuality when we're coming along to any event."

Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar described the Pope's visit as significant.

"I look forward to welcoming Pope Francis to Ireland this August.

"This will be a significant visit by a global and spiritual leader to Ireland and is the first visit of a pontiff here in almost 40 years.

"This is also a hugely important opportunity to showcase Ireland as images of this visit will be viewed around the globe."

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