Pope Francis bids farewell to Ireland after historic trip
Pope Francis has bid farewell to Ireland following his historic two-day visit to Dublin and Knock.
The Pontiff pulled up to the tarmac at Dublin Airport in his blue Skoda, alongside his host, the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo shortly after 6:15 this evening.
After shaking hands with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin and Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin, he spoke briefly with other dignitaries before mounting the steps to the plane for his homeward journey to Rome's Ciampino airport.
But not before giving a hearty laugh at the wind that kept blowing his cossock over his head.
After removing his Papal cap before entering the plane, he shook hands with the pilot and crew.
He then turned to the large contingent of gardai, airport security and dignitaries and gave a blessing and a wave before the Aer Lingus A321 jet, the St Aidan, took off around 6:40pm.
He will travel back to the Vatican along with 126 Vatican officials, security staff and journalists with Aer Lingus pilots Capt Steve Kelly and Capt Shane Kearney at the helm.
While on board he will be served on a traditional Irish meal, including Toons mozzerella with fresh leek salad and sun-dried tomato tartar with basil pesto as a starter.
For mains he will have a choice of smoked salmon with cabbage or basil pesto risotto, followed by passion fruit mousse for dessert.
After the meal, Aer Lingus Chief Strategy and Planning Officer Greg Kaldahl and the airline's Chief Technical Officer Fergus Wilson will present the Pontiff with various gifts of behalf of the State carrier.
They include a model of Aer Lingus' first aircraft, the De Havilland DH84 Dragon EI ABI.
He will also receive a replica of the circa 800AD Celtic Crucifix which Saint John Paul the Second also received when he flew back to Rome aboard Aer Lingus jet the St Patrick following his papal visit here in 1979.
His 36-hour visit was part of the Catholic Church's World Meeting of Families drew journalists and faithful from around the world.
Thousands of spectators lined the streets of the capital on Saturday where he greeted the faithful from his pope mobile as he wound his way from St Mary's Pro Cathedral to the Capuchin Day Centre to meet with homeless families.
An estimated crowd of 130,000 attended an open-air mass at Dublin's Phoenix Park yesterday where the Pontiff asked for forgiveness for the church's complicity in the clerical abuse scandal.
But the numbers fell short of the 500,000 tickets that had been allocated to the free event.
His visit was also marked by protests by victims of the sex abuse scandal and other institutional abuse survivors.