Pope Francis will visit the shrine at Knock when he goes to Ireland in August – the first papal visit in nearly 40 years – but Northern Ireland is not on his 36-hour itinerary.
The Pope will arrive at Dublin Airport at 10.30 am. He will meet President Michael Higgins at his official residence and workplace, Áras an Uachtaráin, before meeting dignitaries and giving a speech in Dublin Castle at midday. He will visit St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in the afternoon before a private visit to the Capuchin day centre for homeless families; in the evening he will host the feast of the families in Croke Park, making a speech.
Pope Francis will fly to Knock the next morning for a brief visit to the Shrine; he will say the Angelus on the square in front of the Shrine. He will return to Dublin for lunch with the papal delegation, then will say Mass in Phoenix Park at 3 pm, giving the homily; 500,000 tickets are being made available. He will be meeting with the bishops at the Convent of the Dominican Sisters, and give a speech. There will be a farewell ceremony at Dublin Airport at 6.30 before the Pope returns to Rome.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said he hopes Pope Francis’s visit “will open out for families renewed inspiration, hope and healing”.
“The visit of Pope Francis to the World Meeting of Families in Dublin must not be just a once off event,” he said.
Speaking of clerical abuse he said: “In other visits across the world he has met with survivors. Generally speaking, he has met them quietly to respect their anonymity and we’d be looking at the way that can be done. There are a wide range of people who are survivors of institutions, of abuse by priests, and of mother and baby homes. We’d find a way which the Pope can address concerns of all of those people, but we have many meetings.”
Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland regretted that Pope Francis will not be visiting Northern Ireland,
“We were really hoping this might be an opportunity and I think he really would love to come to Northern Ireland but I suppose the pressures of this particular event and all he wants to do for the World Meeting of the families has overtaken that,’” he said.