Pope has no plans to visit Ireland, claims church amid rumours
After a day of excited speculation about a possible visit by the Pope to Ireland in 2018, Catholic Church sources moved to dampen down rumours that the Pontiff would include Northern Ireland in his itinerary.
Pope Francis is due to attend the World Meeting of Families, to be held in Dublin in 2018.
Speculation began after Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin told Paul Williams of the Irish Independent newspaper that when he discussed the issue of visiting Ireland with the Pontiff, Pope Francis said: 'I will come', and added, 'if I don't come, my successor will come.'
The story was picked up by the Irish Catholic newspaper, whose report also offered a list of venues which were likely to be on the Pope's itinerary: 'It is expected that as well as visiting Dublin and the North, most probably Armagh, a papal visit to Ireland will include pilgrimages to one of Ireland's historic monastic sites and to Knock Shrine, trips to Marian shrines being common features of papal visits.'
As well as visiting Dublin, it's believed the Pope would probably travel to Northern Ireland to complete the 1979 historic pilgrimage of St John Paul II, when rising tensions in the North made a visit there impossible.
However, Catholic sources in Dublin said there was no official confirmation of a proposed visit to Ireland by Pope Francis.
Speaking to media, a spokesman for Archbishop Martin said: "Speculation in the Irish Catholic newspaper concerning locations etc., quoting unnamed Vatican officials, are completely without foundation.
"If a papal visit were to happen to coincide with the World Meeting of Families in Dublin in 2018, confirmation of such a visit would not happen until 2017 at the earliest. There is no visit confirmed at this time."
A month before the last papal visit in 1979, the IRA murdered Lord Louis Mountbatten in Co Sligo and killed 18 soldiers in an ambush at Warrenpoint.