Pope unlikely to visit Ireland

[caption id="attachment_68776" align="alignright" width="600" caption="Pope Benedict. "]


The pope is unlikely to visit Ireland next year for the Eucharistic Congress, it is believed.

A potential visit for the event next June by Pope Benedict XVI was raised in the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs last week when Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said if the Holy See were to request a papal visit to Ireland, he had "no doubt" the Irish government would respond positively.

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However, the 84-year-old pontiff's travel plans for 2012 are close to completion and they do not include Ireland. The intention is for the pope to make three overseas visits - to Cuba and Mexico in March, as well as to the Lebanon and to Ukraine, with precise dates for the latter two visits yet to be established.

Vatican sources said the pope already has an important engagement in early June when he is expected to attend World Family Day in Milan. Organized by the Pontifical Council for the Family, this event is scheduled to run from May 30 to June 3.

Vaticanologist Gerard O'Connell said the decision not to go to Ireland had been taken as long ago as June, therefore suggesting it had nothing to do with any deterioration of Vatican-Dublin relations after Taoiseach Enda Kenny's stinging criticism the church earlier this year and the subsequent closure of the Irish embassy to the Holy See.