Pope 'would like to come to Ireland' in two years
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has given his strongest indication yet that a papal visit by Pope Francis is on the cards for Ireland in just under two years' time.
The Archbishop of Dublin, who is president of the 2018 global church event which takes place in a different location around the world every three years, said Pope Francis had said "he would like to come to Ireland".
"I am very hopeful that he will come," Archbishop Martin told reporters on Saturday at the official launch of the World Meeting of Families, which the Irish Church will host in August 2018.
But he stressed the Pope's programme is always finalised at a later stage so there will be no official confirmation until next year. He said Francis's age also had to be taken into consideration, as he will be 81 when thousands of families and groups working with families from around the world gather in Ireland.
Pope Francis personally chose Dublin as the venue for the 2018 event and the theme of the gathering is 'The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World'.
Last Friday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Archbishop Martin had informed him of the Irish bishops' invitation to the Pope. In Brussels, Mr Kenny said if Francis accepted the invitation, he had assured Archbishop Martin that "the Government would respond appropriately, would welcome Pope Francis, and would make all the arrangements to treat him in a proper and respectful manner as befits his position as the head of the Catholic Church".
Speaking in St Patrick's College, Drumcondra, of the organisational challenges which the World Meeting of Families will entail, Archbishop Martin said it made him "shiver". He emphasised the event was "not a sort of spiritual travelling circus which moves around from city to city simply repeating the same performances".
Both he and Archbishop Eamon Martin said they were launching a process which will be rolled out over the next 20 months and will involve families, parishes, schools and church groups. The aim is to identify the inadequacies of the Church's pastoral outreach to families and those who feel excluded from the Church's vision of marriage and the family.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin warned one of the "biggest challenges" is the way drugs are "infesting" families. He said "young people are dragged into a drug culture at a very early age" while criminal gangs are making "enormous amounts of money".
The Archbishop also expressed alarm over the number of stabbings in Ireland, describing it as "very worrying".
At a service in Kilmainham Gaol yesterday for 1916, Dr Martin reiterated his concern that "almost every day" we are seeing "examples of senseless violence".