Queen Elizabeth II's visit to Ireland this past week has paved the way for Pope Benedict XVI to visit Northern Ireland, said the influential Irish Catholic newspaper writer Michael Kelly this week.
Kelly mentions several instances during the Pope's visit to Britain last year that suggest that he was breaking ground for the Queen's visit to Ireland this week.
During the state visit, the Pope constantly referred to Christianity's history "in these islands." And after being welcomed by the Queen in Edinburgh, in his short speech he spoke of the Northern peace process and paid tribute to the efforts of both the Irish and British governments in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.
The queen visiting Ireland could mean that Northern Protestants would be far less hostile to the Pope visiting Northern Ireland.
While there has been a huge focus on whether or not Benedict XVI will travel to Dublin next June to participate in the International Eucharistic Congress, the bigger question, says Kelly, is the prospect of the Pope traveling to the North and completing the 1979 pilgrimage of Blessed Pope John Paul II, who was unable to visit the region due to the civil conflict in the North.
A visit to the North by Pope Benedict would certainly be yet another powerful symbol of peace and reconciliation.