Observers say that due to the Catholic Church's mishandling of the abuse crisis in Ireland it is now inconceivable for Pope Benedict XVI to visit Ireland this summer, despite having received an official invitation to attend the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in June.

The Pontiff is not expected to travel to Dublin for the major international gathering of Catholics. It is understood that Pope Benedict met with Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, the most outspoken critic of the Vatican's handling of the crisis in Rome this week.

Archbishop Martin cannot have left the Pontiff in any doubt about the inadvisability of an Irish papal visit at their time and so instead the 84-year-old Pope has made plans to present a live televised address to an anticipated crowd of more than 80,000 participants due to attend an open-air Mass in Croke Park entitled Statio Orbis on June 17.

Despite the advice from top Irish clergy, the Pope has still not officially indicated whether or not he intends to attend the Congress. Church authorities fear that his presence in Ireland could lead to major public protests that would detract from the congress and its message.

According to a report in the Irish Examiner Archbishop Martin was part of the Irish delegation visiting the Vatican as part of the preparations for the congress.

The organizing committee presented the Pope with a bowl of shamrock to mark Saint Patrick’s Day. After the meeting, Archbishop Martin said that the Pope had appeared interested in preparations for the congress.

Father Kevin Doran, the secretary general of the forthcoming congress, added that the Pope had made no reference to his invitation to visit Ireland for the congress during his meeting with the Irish delegation.