Pontiff will visit Dublin for two days during World Meeting of Families and celebrate Mass at Phoenix Park.

Pope Francis has officially confirmed that he will visit Ireland in August 2018. His visit will be the first Papal visit to Ireland since Pope John Paul visited in 1979.

Francis will fly in to Dublin on August 25 and will take part in the World Meeting of Families, in Croke Park. On August 26 he will celebrate Mass at the Phoenix Park, which is expected to attract thousands of pilgrims from Ireland and from around the world.

The Pope confirmed his visit to Ireland, on Wednesday, in front of tens of thousands of people, during his weekly audience at St. Peter’s Square, in the Vatican.

He also confirmed that his trip would no include a visit to Northern Ireland, as had earlier been rumored. It had also been said that Pope Francis had expressed an interest in visiting prisons in Ireland. His exact itinerary during his two-day Dublin trip has yet to be confirmed.

Pope Francis has confirmed this morning that he will visit Dublin 25-26 August, 2018 on the occasion of the World Meeting of Families. The last visit by a Pope to Ireland took place in 1979. We look forward to your visit Papa Francesco! pic.twitter.com/0djmYjcgVk

— IrishEmbassy HolySee (@IrlEmbHolySee) March 21, 2018

The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference welcomed the Pope’s confirmation. In a statement they said:

“On behalf of the faithful of Ireland we warmly welcome today’s announcement, by the Holy Father himself, that he plans to visit Dublin in August for the World Meeting of Families.  We are deeply honored that Pope Francis will come to our country to participate in this universal Church celebration of faith and joy, as well as of the contemporary challenges which face families.”

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, President of the World Meeting of Families 2018, said: “We eagerly await the visit of Pope Francis which no doubt will be an occasion of spiritual renewal for our laity, religious and clergy as well as a strengthening of Christian family life.”

In 1979 when the last Pontiff visited Ireland, Pope John Paul II attracted 1.25 million people when he celebrated Mass at Phoenix Park. He also addressed crowds at Ballybrit Racecourse, in Galway during his trip.

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As Reuters points out on Wednesday, Ireland’s relationship with the Church has changed greatly in the last 39 years. In fact, Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s first openly gay leader, was born in 1979 when Pope John Paul visited Ireland. Ireland voted to support same-sex marriage in a referendum in 2015.

The Church’s influence on politics and society in Ireland has dropped in recent decades in the wake of the unearthing of massive clerical sexual abuse scandals.

In 2011 the Irish government closed the embassy to the Vatican, which marked an all-time low for relations between the Catholic Church and Ireland. This closure was due to the Irish Church’s handling of clerical sexual abuse and accusations that the Vatican encouraged secrecy. The embassy reopened in 2014.

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