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Papal visit likely to culminate in Phoenix Park Mass

By Sarah Mac Donald - 19 December, 2017

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, who is President of the 2018 World Meeting of Families, has given an indication of the overall cost of next year’s papal visit and where the final Mass is likely to take place.

In an interview with RTÉ Radio’s Seán O’Rourke programme on Monday, the Archbishop said he was anxious not to raise expectations.

“Anywhere [the Pope] goes … will be linked explicitly with the World Meeting of Families. There will be no side agendas.”

He highlighted that the World Meeting of Families has a number of regular events such as the three-day conference on family values, which in Ireland will be held in the RDS and will be addressed by speakers from all over the world.

This conference will look at every dimension of the relationship between family and society.

According to Dr Martin, on Saturday 25 August, a festival of families will take place in Croke Park.

Then on Sunday 26 August, the final Mass of WMF2018 will be presided over by Pope Francis in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.

“We have to remember that this Pope … he was 81 yesterday; when Pope John Paul II came he was 60. So, the amount of things he can do is quite limited.”

Nevertheless, according to Archbishop Martin there are a number of things Pope Francis wants to do which are not directly linked to the World Meeting of Families. These are things he does everywhere he goes.

“He would like to go to a prison. Everywhere he goes, he goes to a prison. When he went to Milan, which is the fashion capital and financial capital of Italy, and has a hinterland much larger than the Republic of Ireland, he spent an hour and a half with the prisoners; it is something he feels very strongly about.

“He would like to see and to meet people who are experiencing poverty in their lives. I could see, for example, him looking at something for the homeless. I would like him to meet with the Travellers, to show solidarity with young people – he constantly talks about young people and the elderly.”

The Archbishop of Dublin said he would like to see the Pope visit the capital’s north inner city, “where he would encounter not just poverty but people who are reacting against poverty.

“We all know the problems of drug abuse and drug gangs but there are women in that area – extraordinarily strong women who are very courageous. There is one group which looks after families who have lost a child due to drug abuse – there is a great presence in that part of the city; I would certainly love him to go there.”

The WMF is held every three years. In his interview, Dr Martin said that family across the world means very different things.

“But there is something that we all recognise in family and that is something about caring, passing on values about inter-generational activity – something that is extremely important in Ireland today, the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.”

Asked if Pope Francis is likely to go anywhere outside of Dublin, the Archbishop said it was a possibility but added, “He is coming primarily for the World Meeting of Families and he feels that by attending the World Meeting of Families he will be able to address a whole series of questions which are the reason he chose to come to Ireland.”

In response to a question about the cost of a papal visit, Archbishop Martin said it would cost over €20m because of the complications of gathering people together, covering security and the technology needed to do that.

Church collections, he hopes, will bring in about €5m. The remainder will come from fundraising.

“We’re very anxious that people and families can come [to events] without experiencing financial difficulties. For example, we won’t charge any admission to anything for children and the Mass in the Phoenix Park will be public.”

Though 1.2 million people descended on the Phoenix Park in 1979 for the visit of John Paul II, Archbishop Martin said the emphasis in 2018, when so much has changed in Ireland, is not numbers but the quality of the events.

“There are a lot of people who would simply like to see the Pope” but he also warned that the security at the last World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia was “ludicrous” and that nobody could see the Pope.

He said he believed that Pope Francis’ visit and what he says and “some of the things he does will provoke people to reflect more on their lives”.

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