Pope Francis to visit Ireland soon after abortion referendum

Pontiff to visit in August, three months after country votes on whether to repeal ban

Pope Francis is to visit Ireland in August, just three months after the country votes in a deeply divisive referendum that could lead to legal abortions in the republic’s hospitals.

The Vatican confirmed on Wednesday that the first papal visit to Ireland since 1979 will take place during a “World Meeting of Families” week that runs from 21 to 26 August.

He will celebrate mass in Dublin’s Phoenix Park on Sunday 26 August – the same venue where Pope John Paul II preached to nearly 1 million Catholics 39 years ago.

On his election, 2013

“You know that it was the duty of the conclave to give Rome a bishop. It seems that my brother cardinals have gone to the ends of the earth to get one.”

On sexuality, 2013

“If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”

On women, 2014

“By virtue of their feminine genius, [female] theologians can detect, for the benefit of all, some unexplored aspects of the unfathomable mystery of Christ. They are the strawberry on the cake and we want more.”

On migration to the EU, 2014

“We cannot allow the Mediterranean Sea to become a vast cemetery.”

On the Catholic church, 2015

“Sometimes, I speak of the church as if it were a field hospital. It’s true: there are many, many wounded! This is the mission of the church: to heal the wounds of the heart, to open doors, to free people... ”

On youth, 2015

“Young people... wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.”

The Argentinian-born pope will arrive in an Ireland very different from the republic John Paul II visited nearly four decades ago. In 1979 homosexuality was illegal, divorce virtually impossible, and condoms only available with the agreement of a GP. Catholic cardinals and bishops exercised enormous influence on the country’s political leadership from the pulpit and there was an 80% attendance rate for weekly mass.

More than 3 million people went to see John Paul II at four different locations during the visit.

The pope’s visit was welcomed by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, which said in a statement: “We are deeply honoured that Pope Francis will come to our country to participate in this universal church celebration of faith and joy, as well as of the contemporary challenges which face families.

“With great anticipation we also look forward to hearing the apostolic guidance of His Holiness during his stay with us.”

On Wednesday, Ireland’s parliament endorsed by a large majority the legislation to set up the referendum on abortion. Members of the Dáil voted by 110 to 32 votes to allow for the referendum to be held this May.

Irish voters will now be asked to repeal the eighth amendment to Ireland’s constitution which since 1983 has put the life of the mother on an equal legal footing to a foetus. They will also be asked to vote to allow the Dáil to legislate to allow abortions to be carried out in Irish hospitals for up to 12 weeks into pregnancy.


Henry McDonald Ireland correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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