Sunday 16 December 2018

'We might burn them' - Pope's Phoenix Park visit sees protesters book hundreds of tickets they won't use

Pope Francis (Niall Carson/PA)
Pope Francis (Niall Carson/PA)
Pope Francis

Rachel Farrell

A GROUP protesting the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland in August claims it has been able to book hundreds of tickets to a Mass in the Phoenix Park despite not intending to go.

One man said he has managed to secure 692 tickets as part of a Facebook campaign group to boycott the papal visit - and he may destroy them.

"We might print out a symbolic few to organise an event, and burn them," Richard Duffy said on RTÉ's Liveline this afternoon.

According to Mr Duffy, members of the 'Say Nope To The Pope' Facebook event have been booking large amounts of tickets to prevent a high turnout to the Pope's mass in the Phoenix Park at the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) in August.

Their aim is to "drive home the message that people in this country are not happy with the Catholic Church and this is a way of expressing that," Mr Duffy said.

More than 5,000 people have expressed interest on the Facebook event. Mr Duffy claims he even saw one member say that they had booked 1,300 tickets.

One member on the page said; "Now I've only got to find 95 friends to not go to this thing". 

"Just ordered my 12 if anyone else wants to not go," another said.

The boycotting has aroused significant backlash from members of the Church.

Speaking on RTÉ's Liveline, one woman said she booked 12 tickets as part of her own quiet "protest".

Another listener, Gerry McArdle, said their actions were "spiteful". 

"I think it's spiteful, I think it's non-sensical, I can't believe a grown man would behave this way," he said.

"The man is coming, he's a distinguished guest, he's a VIP. To insult the man like that, we're showing ourselves up."

In response, Mr Duffy said he would "take pride" if the park was empty on the day.

"At the end of the day if we got an empty field that would make a big point. The problems with the church are much bigger than a few people's disappointment.

"There would be a big international reaction and I would take pride." 

Tickets for Pope Francis' appearances in the Phoenix Park and Knock were released through an online portal early yesterday morning.

By 5pm on Monday, over 285,000 tickets out of a possible 500,000 for the mass in the Phoenix Park were snapped up. All 45,000 free tickets to pray the Angelus with Pope Francis in Knock were booked out within a matter of hours.

Meanwhile, WMOF organisers said that its pastoral congress event has been sold out. It will take place in the RDS in Dublin from August 22 to 24.

Tickets for the WMOF2018 closing Mass at the Papal Cross in the Phoenix Park on August 26 are still available to book on www.worldmeeting2018.ie. Earlier in the day, he will visit Knock Shrine at 9.45am, where he will visit the apparition chapel and give the Angelus address.

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