Reconciliation will be re-ignited by a visit north of the border

Pope Francis' papacy has been characterised by a steadfast focus on challenging poverty, exclusion and social injustice and a concern more about the plight of the vulnerable across the world than with the auspices of his position or his institution.

That should be an example to us all.

I’m delighted that Pope Francis will visit Northern Ireland in 2018. The previous visit of Saint John Paul during the darkest days of conflict was a symbol of hope at a time when the people of Ireland needed it most. We’ve come a long way since then but we have so much ground left to travel.

His visit to the North will, I believe, re-ignite reconciliation between communities across this island, providing a new imperative not only to heal the wounds of our past but to work in partnership to tackle the injustice that endures in our society.

Respectful sharing in the experience of our faith and our tradition can be a catalyst for transforming this society. It is my sincere hope that the experience will be shared by everyone.

Nichola Mallon, SDLP North Belfast MLA