Pope Francis has officially confirmed that he will visit Ireland in August 2018. The Pontiff has also shared his plans to cross the border into Northern Ireland. Ireland’s Prime Minster (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny made the announcement following a private meeting with Pope Francis today at the Vatican.

“I want to say that the Pope has confirmed that he is coming to Ireland for the World Meeting of the Family — a fact that I appreciate very much — arising from the invitation of the Irish Bishops,” Kenny said after the meeting.

“We discussed what he might do and obviously that is a matter for His Holiness and the Bishops and if that means that he also travels to Northern Ireland, then we will co-operate and assist in whatever arrangements are arrived at.”

Following the announcement, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, said: "We would love to think that if the Pope is coming to Ireland that perhaps he might be able to visit Northern Ireland at the same time.”

He added that the visit would represent a "deeply symbolic and powerful moment." 

Pope Francis has been an important voice for the young, the poor & disadvantaged - glad he will visit Ireland in 2018 pic.twitter.com/vSn16otMAA

— Enda Kenny (@EndaKennyTD) November 28, 2016

This will be the first Papal visit to Ireland since Pope John Paul II’s visit brought the country to a standstill in August 1979. Nearly three million people turned out to see the Pope, who said four masses in the Phoenix Park, Drogheda, Galway and Knock.

It has been widely reported that Pope Francis chose Ireland personally for the 2018 trip. He also has a personal connection with Ireland. In the 1980s Francis lived with the Jesuit community for three months at the Milltown Institute on Sandford Road, in Ranelagh, South Dublin.

The World meeting of the Family will take place in Dublin from August 22–26, 2018, with a focus on the theme of “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World," which Francis is also said to have selected himself. A planning process for the event that will involve families, parishes, schools and church groups will be rolled out over the next year. The aim of the World Meeting of Families is to identify the inadequacies of the Church's pastoral outreach to families and those who feel excluded from the Church's vision of marriage and the family.

During today’s Vatican meeting, Taoiseach Kenny and his wife, Fionnula, met with Pope Francis for just under half an hour.

In addition to Francis’ visit to Ireland, they exchanged gifts and discussed issues of importance to both Ireland and the Catholic Church, as well as the status of the relationship between the Church and the Irish State. One of the most prominent moments of Kenny’s term as leader thus far, was his scathing speech on the Church’s handling of the child abuse scandal in Ireland following the release of the Cloyne Report in 2011.

"I was happy to confirm to him that Church/ State relations are in a better shape than they were for very many years. That we work very well with the Bishops and the clergy, that there are so many more safeguards in place than there were before and that.

"I regard these relations as being at a healthier position than they were for many years," Kenny said.

They also discussed Brexit and immigration concerns.

Will you be looking forward to Pope Francis’ Irish visit in 2018? Would you try to attend one of the Masses or events around his visit? Share your thoughts in the comment section.