Wednesday 18 September 2019

A guide to the Pope in Ireland 2018 - all you need to know

Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in the Phoenix Park on Sunday, August 26
Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in the Phoenix Park on Sunday, August 26
Rachel Farrell

Rachel Farrell

In just under two weeks' time, Pope Francis will visit Ireland for the first time for the World Meeting of Families event. When Pope John Paul II came to Ireland in 1979, an estimated 2.7 million people lined the streets to see him.

Although the number is expected to be lower this time around, the weekend of August 25 and 26 is set to be a busy one. Not sure what to expect? We’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to answer all your questions about the much-anticipated visit. 

Who is Pope Francis?

Pope Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Argentina, was elected the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church in March 2013. Cardinal Bergogio took the name Francis after St. Francis of Assisi of Italy. He is the first South American to be elected as pope. 

Why is he coming to Ireland?

The Pope is travelling to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) 2018 event. Held every three years, the event celebrates “the central importance of marriage and the family”. 

When will he be here?

The National Opening of the WMOF kicks off on Monday 21 August, but Pope Francis won’t be arriving until 10.30am on Saturday 25 August. He will spend two days celebrating the Festival of Families before heading back to Rome at 6.45pm on Sunday 26 August. 

Where will he visit?

Pope Francis will first pay a visit to the President of Ireland at Áras an Uachtaráin, before heading to Dublin Castle to meet with authorities, civil society and diplomatic corps. He will go on to St Mary’s Pro Cathedral before making a private visit to the Capuchin Day Centre for Homeless People. 

After that, a ticketed event for the Festival of Families will take place in Croke Park. 

What about Knock?

At 08.40am on Sunday 26 August, the Pope will jet off to Knock to say the Angelus in front of the shrine. After a brief two- hour visit, he will head back to Dublin to have lunch with the Papal Delegation before the big event- saying Mass at the Phoenix Park.

Following that, Pope Francis will meet with bishops in the Convent of Dominican Sisters before catching a flight to Roma/Ciampino airport at 6.45pm. 

The pope’s full itinerary can be seen in detail below.

Who else will be there?

World-renowned tenor Andrea Bocelli will perform for Pope Francis during the event, alongside other acts including Nathan Carter, Daniel O'Donnell and the Riverdance Troupe.

The much-anticipated event will see a number of guest speakers from all five major continents of the world, compiled of 80pc lay speakers and 20pc clergy. 

How do I get tickets? 

All tickets for the key WMOF events in Croke Park, Knock and the Phoenix Park are booked out. Almost half a million people are expected to attend the Papal Mass in the Phoenix Park, with all 500,000 tickets snapped up. According to WMOF organisers, 15,000 of tickets booked were from overseas visitors, with 116 countries represented.

So I can’t attend without a ticket?

All events will require a free ticket, so if you managed to book one, you can attend. All tickets are non-transferable though, so can’t be passed on or sold. 

However, an opening ceremony will take place simultaneously across all 26 dioceses of Ireland on the evening of Tuesday 21 August. The main event in Dublin requires a ticket, but most other parishes are free to all. More information can be found here.

Will it be shown on TV?

RTÉ will broadcast live coverage of the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland throughout Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th August. On RTÉ One there will be rolling coverage of the public events, while live coverage of The Festival of Families event on Saturday evening at Croke Park will be broadcast on RTÉ2.

On Sunday, live coverage on RTÉ One and RTÉ News Now will include the Pope’s visit to Knock and the papal Mass in the Phoenix Park. There will also be feature programmes shown across the weekend, as well as extensive coverage on RTÉ Radio. 

How will Pope Francis get around Ireland?

It is understood that Pope Francis will be driven around in a Skoda car while he is in Ireland.

Businesswoman Norah Casey confirmed the pontiff would be travelling in a Skoda on RTÉ Radio One’s ‘Marian Finucane Show’ yesterday.

Pope Francis will visit Knock Shrine on August 25
Pope Francis will visit Knock Shrine on August 25

Will it affect transport options? 

It sure will- Garda are advising members of the public to ditch the car and use public transport that weekend instead. There will be a Controlled Access Zone around Dublin City starting at the M50 from 6am until 11pm on Sunday 26 August. 

“If you are planning on using your car to access Dublin City on Sunday 26 August then you should be aware that there will be diversions/road closures and other restrictions in place on the day,” a garda spokesperson said.

Luckily, there will be free public transport across Dublin on August 26 instead. Those travelling with Irish Rail or Dublin Bus can travel for free if they show their ticket. Bus Éireann will operate a weekday service.

How do I get to the Phoenix Park?

If you're heading to the Papal Mass on Sunday 26 august, you'll need to plan your route as driving to the Phoenix Park won’t be an option. From Dublin Heuston Station it's 700 metres from the Park Gate Street entrance to the park. From there it's approximately a 2.5km walk to the Papal Cross.

Alternatively, Ashtown Station is 650 metres from the Ashtown Gate entrance to the Phoenix Park, with a 3km walk to the Papal Cross.

According to Irish Rail, a number of Intercity trains from Kerry and Waterford are already sold out. Irish Rail are advising attendees to book their Intercity tickets as soon as possible.

If you’re planning on heading by bus, Dublin Bus will have seven dedicated transport hubs throughout the city to bring people as close as possible to the Phoenix Park. The hubs will begin early in the morning and finish up at night, and can be found at the following locations;

  • Hub 1 – Clarehall Avenue, Malahide Road to Ratoath Road
  • Hub 2 – Swords Business Park to Ballyboggan Road
  • Hub 3 – Leopardstown to Cook Street
  • Hub 4 – Grange Castle to Chapelizod Bypass
  • Hub 5 – Celbridge (Salesian College) to Chapelizod Bypass 
  • Hub 6 – Stocking Avenue to Chapelizod Bypass
  • Hub 7 – Tyrrelstown (Carlton Hotel) to Laurel Lodge

More travel information can be found here.

What about the weather?

Ireland’s weather can be changeable, and although no forecast will be available until next week, WMOF organisers recommend that attendees prepare for all conditions. 

“You'll need to be adaptable, so go for layers that you can put on or take off as the temperature changes,” the WMOF website says.

“Bring a sweater, even in summer; waterproofs to accompany all outdoor activities; sunglasses; comfortable walking shoes and an umbrella.”

It's not all about the Pope - are there some events around his visit?

For the first time, a symposium dedicated to the global impact of women's leadership will be held on Saturday August 25.

Broadcaster and businesswoman Norah Casey will chair the event in the RDS, alongside US business executive Susan Ann Davis with keynote speaker General Kristin Lund. Topics of discussion include peacekeeping, girl’s education and violence against women.

Tickets for the event are free but limited- more information here.

Will there be any protests?

A ‘Stand for Truth’ solidarity event for clergy abuse victims will take place in Dublin's Garden of Remembrance at 3pm on Sunday 26 August.

Abuse survivor and Executive Director of Amnesty Ireland, Colm O’Gorman, previously told that the event was so people could  “stand and recognise the dignity harmed and lives destroyed”.

A number of abuse survivors from other parts of the world as part of the Ending Clergy Abuse Global Justice Project (ECA) are also expected to fly in to stand in solidarity.

Should I be aware of anything else?

Yes- the HSE's Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has warned of “unique health risks” that may occur at large gatherings like the WMOF.

"Given the nature of this historic papal visit, a large number of young children and elderly visitors are expected to attend the final Mass, including many international visitors,” said Dr Mary O'Riordan, Specialist in Public Health Medicine at the HPSC.

"In the current context of ongoing measles spread in Europe, it is highly advisable that all attendants, especially young children, ensure that they are up to date with their vaccinations.”

What happened the last time the Pope came to Ireland?

Almost 3 million people turned out to greet Pope John Paul II when he visited Ireland in October 1979. The Pope visited the Phoenix Park, Drogheda, Galway, Knock and Limerick.

Pope John Paul II famously kissed the ground as he embarked the plane, something that many people have speculated will happen when Pope Francis arrives this month.

He made a plea for peace when he visited Drogheda, chosen as a symbolic location within the diocese of Armagh. "On my knees I beg you to turn away from the path of violence and return to the ways of peace," he said.

He also declared his love for "the young people of Ireland" in a renowned speech at a Youth Mass for 300,000 at Ballybrit racecourse.


See the pope’s full itinerary below: 

Saturday 25 August 2018


08:15    Departure by plane from Rome/Fiumicino for Dublin    

10:30    Arrival at Dublin International Airport    


10:45    Transfer to Áras an Uachtaráin    

11:15    Arrival at the Presidential Residence    

WELCOME CEREMONY in front of the main entrance of the Residence    

11:30    COURTESY VISIT TO THE PRESIDENT in the Presidential Residence    

12:00    Transfer to Dublin Castle    

12:10    Arrival at Dublin Castle    


15:30    Arrival at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral    

VISIT to the CATHEDRAL - Greeting of the Holy Father

16:15    Transfer to the Day Centre of the Capuchin Fathers    


19:30    Arrival at Croke Park Stadium    

19:45    FESTIVAL OF FAMILIES in Croke Park Stadium - Speech of the Holy Father 


Sunday 26 August 2018


08:40    Departure by plane for Knock    

09:20    Arrival at the Airport in Knock

Immediate transfer to the Shrine    

09:45    Arrival at Knock Shrine    

VISIT to the CHAPEL of Knock Shrine    

ANGELUS on the square in front of the Shrine - Angelus of the Holy Father 

10:45    Transfer to the airport in Knock    

11:10    Arrival at the airport in Knock    

11:15    Departure by plane for Dublin    

11:50    Arrival at Dublin International Airport    

Lunch with the Papal Delegation    

14:30    Arrival at Phoenix Park    

15:00    HOLY MASS in Phoenix Park - Homily of the Holy Father

MEETING WITH THE BISHOPS in the Convent of the Dominican Sisters -  Speech of the Holy Father 

18:30    Arrival at Dublin International Airport    


18:45    Departure by plane for Roma/Ciampino    

23:00    Arrival at the Airport of Roma/Ciampino    


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