Pope Francis confirms he will visit Ireland in 2018
The Pope has confirmed he will visit Ireland in 2018.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny was in the Vatican today where he invited Pope Francis to come to Ireland.
The last Pontiff to travel to Ireland was Pope John Paul II in 1979.
However it appears that lengthy gap will now be bridged with Pope Francis likely to travel here in 2018.
After arriving in the city state today, Mr Kenny wasted no time in issuing a formal invitation for Pope Francis to travel here.
- Read more: In Pictures: Pope John Paul II's visit to Ireland (and a welcome from 2.5m people) in 1979
Mr Kenny and his wife Fionnuala arrived at the Vatican shortly before 10am and were greeted by the Swiss Guard.
The meeting with the Pope lasted just under half an hour. The two men discussed a range of issues including migration.
As they left the meeting, Fionnuala said to the Pope: “Hopefully we’ll see you in Ireland”. The Taoiseach presented leader of the Catholic Church with a print of a stained glass window by Harry Clarke. In return, the Fine Gael leader received an etching of St Peter’s Basilica.
A short time later it was confirmed that the Pope will travel to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families in Dublin in 2018.
Mr Kenny, who was accompanied by his wife Fionnuala, said it was "an exceptional privilege and honour" for him to meet the Pope and extend an invitation to Ireland.
"I discussed a range of other matters with him in regard to the state of the Church/State relations in Ireland," he said.
Pope Francis has been an important voice for the young, the poor & disadvantaged - glad he will visit Ireland in 2018 pic.twitter.com/vSn16otMAA— Enda Kenny (@EndaKennyTD) November 28, 2016
Mr Kenny raised the issue of the Church's response to child sexual abuse scandals and explained his "difficulties with the Church some years ago", a reference to him famous speech to the Dáil following the publication of the Cloyne Report.
"I was happy to conform to him that Church/ State relations are in a better shape than they were for very many years. That we work very well with the Bishops and the clergy, that there are so many more safeguards in place than there were before and that.
"I regard these relations as being at a healthier position than they were for many years," Mr Kenny said afterwards.
They also discussed Brexit "in the context of the new relationship that will apply been the UK and the EU".
Last week, the Taoiseach insisted relations between Ireland and the Vatican were extremely healthy and he had regular conversations with many clergy.
This contrasts with a landmark speech about child abuse in Cloyne in July 2011, which was an unprecedented attack on “dysfunction, disconnection, elitism and narcissism” at the Vatican.
Following this the Irish Vatican embassy was closed for two years, but reopened in 2014 after Pope Francis’s election.
Earlier this year Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said Irish bishops would like to include a trip to the North during any possible Irish visit by the Pope. Pope John Paull II did not visit the North 37 years ago for security reasons.
Since it was announced last year that Dublin is the venue for the next World Meeting of Families, senior Vatican sources have said they are unable to confirm the presence of the Pope at an event.