Monday 22 January 2018

'Pope is tough as nails ... it's vital in the Vatican'

Archbishop Martin tells of Pontiff's desire to visit Ireland

Pope Francis blesses a child as he arrives to lead the weekly audience in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican. Photo: Reuters
Pope Francis blesses a child as he arrives to lead the weekly audience in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican. Photo: Reuters
Hope for visit: Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin

Ryan Nugent

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has revealed his close relationship with Pope Francis, as hopes rise that the Pontiff will visit Ireland as soon as 2018.

The Archbishop of Dublin revealed that the Pope calls him "Martin", although he in turn has to address him as "Pope".

He said that the Pontiff was different to his predecessors, although he had good relationships with both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict.

Pope Francis's strongest characteristic is that he's not "judgmental", stating that the first thing he said in an interview was that he was a sinner.

"If a church leader begins with the idea that 'I'm a sinner', then he won't be arrogant with other sinners," he said.

"He won't feel that I really have all the answers, I'm better than anybody else".

In an interview with the Irish Independent for the Paul Williams podcast, he confirmed he had spoken to the Pope about an Irish visit and that "he has said he will come".

The Archbishop told Paul Williams that he has a good relationship with the Argentinian Pope.

"He has said 'I will come' and he said 'if I don't come, my successor will come'," Dr Martin said.

While the Dublin Archdiocese has dampened expectation of any imminent visit, there is mounting speculation it will come in 2018 at the World Meeting of Families.

The meetings are held every three years and are sponsored by the Vatican's Pontifical Council.

Popes have presided over six of the eight meetings that have been held since its inauguration in 1994.

The most recent meeting took place in Philadelphia in September 2015, which was part of the Pope's visit to the United States.

At the closing of the event, Pope Francis, along with Archbishop Martin, announced that the next host city would be Dublin, prompting initial speculation that a second Papal visit to Ireland would be announced.

However, a spokesperson for the Dublin diocese told RTÉ that 2017 would be the earliest possibility of an announcement of a Papal visit and that there has been no confirmation to date.

The spokesperson also said there were no decisions on where the Pope would visit, although there is continued speculation that he will pay a visit to Northern Ireland.

A trip to the North was on the initial itinerary of Pope St John Paul II when he came to Ireland in 1979 - but tensions at the time meant it was unsafe for him to do so and he only travelled as far as Louth.

Speaking to Paul Williams, Dr Martin insisted that the current Pope was no pushover and was very clear with his orders.

"The first thing I'd say about him, and quite a few people would be surprised, is he's as tough as nails.

"It's important in the Vatican. If you weren't tough, it's very hard to change any institution," Dr Martin said.

He added: "He calls me Martin, he'll say, Martin do this. I have to call him Pope.

"He has a very clear pattern every day. He knows exactly what he does, he knows his health problems, but he's happy in his job."

The full interview with Dr Martin, in which he also discusses the declining influence of the Catholic Church in 21st Century Ireland, is available to listen to online at

Irish Independent

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