By Sarah Mac Donald - 28 September, 2015
Pope Francis has announced that Ireland in 2018 will host the next World Meeting of Families fuelling speculation that a papal visit to Ireland is on the cards to coincide with this major gathering of catholic families.
The Pope made the announcement at the conclusion of the outdoor Mass for one million people attending the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia on Sunday evening.
The news was conveyed to the Irish Church by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin who was in Philadelphia for the ceremony and was greeted by the Pope ahead of the liturgy.
Previous World Meeting of Families have been held Rome in 1994, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1997, Rome again in 2000, Manila in the Philippines in 2003, Valencia, Spain, in 2006, Mexico City, in 2009, Milan in 2012, and Philadelphia 2015.
The announcement comes just days before the inauguration of the 14th Ordinary General Assembly World Synod of Bishops which will take place in the Vatican from 5-26 October on ‘The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World’.
Responding to the announcement, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said that he hoped the holding of the Meeting in Ireland would be an occasion to take up the programme of the Synod to strengthen the place of the family in handing on the faith in the face of many new challenges.
“The family in Ireland is strong and the Church is called to take up the challenge of ensuring that future Catholic generations are prepared to live their marriage as an itinerary of faith,” he said.
The date and the programme of the 2018 World Meeting of Families will be decided at a later stage in consultation with the Pontifical Council for the Family.
The 2018 World Meeting of Families is expected to extend to various parts of Ireland and given the size of the country, the event will take on different dimensions to that of the Philadelphia event which concluded tonight.
Welcoming the Pope’s decision to choose Dublin, the Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin said in a statement on Sunday evening, “I am delighted to hear that Pope Francis has announced that the 9th World Meeting of Families will take place in Dublin, and that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin is in Philadelphia with our delegation to hear the news directly from the Holy Father.”
He recalled that the 50th International Eucharistic Congress which was held three years ago in Dublin was a great celebration of faith for Ireland and it attracted pilgrims from all around the world.
“I am confident that the World Meeting of Families in 2018 will also be an uplifting event for all of us,” the Archbishop of Armagh said.
He concluded by stating that he looked forward to “sharing the joy of this announcement with Archbishop Diarmuid, my fellow bishops and with people from all around the country as we begin thinking about how, together, we can best plan to make this significant international event a success”.
Significantly, on Friday, Pope Francis sent a special Apostolic Blessing to the Irish faithful for the National Eucharistic Congress in Knock through the Papal Nuncio which he read out to a packed basilica in Knock on Sunday.
The message concluded with the Pontiff entrusting the bishops, priests, religious and faithful of Ireland to the loving protection of Our Lady and imparted on them “with affection his Apostolic Blessing”.
Speaking as Pope Francis concluded his visit to America, Archbishop Brown described it as a continent whose Catholic faith was shaped in no small part by the faith of Ireland.
Referring to Pope Francis’s visit to a Washington parish named after Ireland’s patron saint and his visit to St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, the Nuncio said, “The fact of the Pope visiting two churches in two different cities in America on a single day, both named for the Patron Saint of Ireland is just a small reminder to us of how the Catholic faith of Ireland contributed mightily to the evangelisation of a new continent.”
Both the Nuncio and the Primate recalled in their homilies the visit in 1979 of Pope John Paul II to Ireland.
At the ‘Festival of Families’ on Saturday night in Philadelphia, Pope Francis said, “What God most wants from us is to knock on the doors of families and to find people who love each other, who bring up their children with love and who contribute to a society of truth, goodness and beauty.”
He continued, “Despite many challenges, the family remains at the heart of faith and of so much that we hold important in this country. Our preparations for the World Meeting of Families will inspire us as we implement, over the next few years, the recommendations which will emerge from the Synod on the Family in Rome next month.”