Monday 22 October 2018

Pope's summer visit will never draw 1979 crowds

Ireland is sure to give Pope Francis a warm welcome in August, just not as big as the first visit, writes Alan O'Keeffe who was there

Unforgettable occasion: Pope John Paul II waves to cheering crowds from his Popemobile in September 1979 (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
Unforgettable occasion: Pope John Paul II waves to cheering crowds from his Popemobile in September 1979 (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)

Alan O'Keeffe

As Dublin prepares to greet Pope Francis, the organisers know the sheer scale of the last papal visit 39 years ago is a hard act to follow.

Confirmation in recent days that Pope Francis (inset, below) will attend a Festival of Families concert in Croke Park on August 25, followed by a Papal Mass the next day in Phoenix Park, has sent Irish planners into overdrive. The weekend's events are expected to cost €20m.

The biggest challenge will be organising the Phoenix Park event and, while Mass attendance has seriously declined, church officials expect up to 500,000 people could still show up.

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