Taoiseach Enda Kenny reveals details of his conversation with Pope Francis
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has described Pope Francis as a "very special person" after their meeting in The Vatican.
The Pontiff's confirmation that he will visit Ireland in August 2018 was welcomed by the Taoiseach, who said there was "a particular presence" about the Pope.
"The meeting I had with him was completely relaxed and very friendly," Mr Kenny said.
The pair discussed a range of issues including climate change, youth unemployment and Ireland's relationship with Pope Francis's native Argentina.
"I did discuss with him a number of issues that would, in my view, help greatly his visit when it comes in 2018. That's an area which I think he appreciates.
"I did refer him to his own comments in America when I think he was very clear about members of the clergy who abused children and his statement on that was quite clear and very strong. I agreed with him 100pc," Mr Kenny said.
The Taoiseach added that he would like to see the Pope travel to Northern Ireland, to complete a journey that Pope John Paul II couldn't do in 1979.
"I said to him that very point, that John Paul couldn't go because of The Troubles at the time. He did pray for peace on his knees at that time and ask the men of violence to give up their ways. So he did say that the schedule will be worked out in dialogue between the bishops and the Church themselves.
"What I said to him was he's going to be very welcome. The Government will make whatever arrangements it needs to make. If it transpires that the Pope wants to go Northern Ireland for a visit that we will cooperate and work with the executive," Mr Kenny said.
He added that the Catholic Church had "greatly helped" to bring peace to the North.
"This is a Pope who has visited places that people did not expect him to visit. He is a Pope who is deliberately moving the Church back towards the people, particularly those who are poor."
Meanwhile, Independent Minister Shane Ross has reiterated his view that the papal visit should not coincide with any referendum campaign on abortion.
Mr Ross said there is a risk of Pope Francis being drawn into the debate on whether the Eighth Amendment should be repealed.
“I simply think that maybe there are better times for him to come than during the middle of a controversial political matter that he might get involved,” Mr Ross said, adding that the news of the visit is “wonderful”.
However, Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar disagreed with his Cabinet colleague, telling reporters that the two issues are not connected.
“I think it’s very welcome not just for people of the catholic faith, but the public in general to have a papal visit to Ireland,” Mr Varadkar told reporters.
“When it comes to making any decision on a referendum on the eighth amendment, that’s a totally separate issue and should affect the timing in any way.
"I think people will be able to have a debate on that issue separate to a visit from someone from overseas,” he added.