Varadkar: We don’t know yet if Pope will visit Northern Ireland in 2018

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

The Irish Government intends to do all it can to assist next year’s visit from Pope Francis, the taoiseach has said.

The pontiff is scheduled to come to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families in August 2018 and it will be the first visit from a pope since John Paul II drew one million people to Phoenix Park in 1979.

Recently, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said that the visit will cost around 20 million euro.

Leo Varadkar said that the Irish Government is due to meet with the Catholic Church in the new year to discuss the visit.

“They asked that we have someone here in the department as a contact point to assist them in the co-ordination and we made that available to them.

“We just don’t know yet if it will be a very short visit just for the Meeting of World Families or whether it will be an extended visit involving other things such as Northern Ireland,” Mr Varadkar said.

He said that the Irish government is “very much at (the) disposal” of the Catholic Church.

“The gvernment will assist in any way to facilitate Pope Francis’s visit,” he added.

The pope’s advancing age - he is now 81 - would mean his itinerary will not be as packed as John Paul II’s was in 1979.

While it may be possible for the pope to go outside Dublin, he would mainly be here for the World Meeting of Families, Archbishop Martin said recently.

The archbishop also said that church collections would bring in around five million euro for the visit, with the remaining costs to be recouped through donations.