Pope Francis may visit Ireland in 2016, according to the Papal Nuncio.
Archbishop Charles Brown, the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Ireland, has said that while Pope Francis will not be traveling to Ireland next year, a short trip in 2016 is “possible.”
"I am sure that Catholics in Ireland, the bishops in Ireland, the priests in Ireland - everyone would be absolutely overjoyed if Pope Francis could come,” the New York-born diplomat told the Irish Independent.
The Pope has already received invitations to visit the country from the Seanad and the Taoiseach earlier this year.
"So we have a groundswell, I think, of support for that idea," said Brown.
"Ireland is very close to the Pope's heart - I have talked to him about this. He really has a great love for Ireland. He has a great love for the Blessed Virgin Mary and he is in tune with that Marian piety of the Irish people."
"So the invitations are coming from Ireland - so encouraging, so beautiful and such a testimony to the Catholic faith of the people in Ireland.
"You mix all of these things together and it makes me hope that a visit could be possible. I think it is possible," he said.
The Archbishop added that Pope Francis is not a “traveling pope” and recalled a comment made by the pope early in his pontificate that he was unenthusiastic about "airport bishops . . . bishops that you only see in the airport."
"I worked in the Vatican for 17 years and I didn't really know Cardinal Bergoglio (the future Pope Francis), and one reason I didn't really know him before he became pope was that he wasn't in Rome constantly. He stayed in Buenos Aires and took care of his people and sanctified his diocese."
However, Pope Francis already has a connection to Ireland, having studied English in the country when he was a young Argentinean Jesuit in the 1970s.
The Nuncio says that despite the scandals surrounding the church in recent years, the people of Ireland have "a great and beautiful reservoir of faith and Catholic practice."
"I think it is safe to say that the practice of the faith in Ireland today continues to be higher than almost any other European country or perhaps any European country. That bedrock of faith was something that struck me instantly."