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Pope Francis to visit Ireland in 2018

Pope Francis exchanges gifts with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny (AP)

Pope Francis will visit Ireland in 2018, the Irish prime minister has confirmed.

Pope Francis met Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Vatican on Monday, with the Irish prime minister tweeting after the meeting that the Pope will visit Dublin for the World Meeting of Families.

Kenny had travelled to the Vatican to formally give his support to the proposed papal visit. The Irish Bishops’ Conference had previously extended the invitation to the Pontiff.

Meanwhile, some Irish government officials have said the timing of the papal visit could be “inappropriate” because it may coincide with a referendum on abortion law.

The Transport, Tourism and Sport Minister Shane Ross told The Times: “I think it would probably be inappropriate for [Pope Francis] to come at exactly the same time as the referendum. I do not see that happening, I think it would be a bit of a faux pas.”

The Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution was introduced in 1983. Effectively, the amendment bans abortion.

The amendment states: “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

A 67 per cent majority passed the amendment in a referendum. Four subsequent referendums about abortion have upheld the unborn child’s right to life.

In the run-up to the 2016 election, major parties committed to holding another referendum to repeal the amendment. A date for the latest referendum is not yet set.

After the meeting, Kenny presented the Pope with a print by artist Harry Clarke, while Pope Francis gave the taoiseach with an etching of St Peter’s Basilica.