A LOCAL parish priest has welcomed news that Pope Francis will visit Ireland with open arms.
Following confirmation this week that Pope Francis will be visiting Dublin on August 25 and 26, Fr Colm O’Doherty of the Parish of Ardstraw West said he is eagerly anticipating the arrival of the “pastoral and compassionate” Pope.
Pope Francis will arrive in Dublin as the city hosts the World Meeting of Families, an international Catholic event which is staged every three years.
The last pontiff to visit Ireland was Pope John Paul II in 1979.
“It is a tremendous honour for Ireland to host a visit from the Pope,” Fr O’Doherty said. “It’s an opportunity to celebrate the Holy Father and offers a time of renewal for Irish Catholics.”
Father O’Doherty was only 18 years old when Pope John Paul ll visited Ireland in 1979.
“I went down to Galway when I was 18 to see him and it was such a monumental day,” he recalled.
“Many have fond memories of this event and it is great that a new generation have the chance to see Pope Francis.
“He speaks to people on a personal level, is pastoral and compassionate, stays true to the Gospel and upholds Church teaching. The Pope’s visit to the country will be a true honour.”
Like John Paul II, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. He will also take part in the Festival of Families in Croke Park.
There has been no announcement about any possible visit to the North.
Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry said the Pope would be very welcome to visit Northern Ireland.
“I would be very keen that that could still be considered,” he said. “It would be a big opportunity for so many of us.”