Pope's Irish representative tells of his hopes for official visit
The possibility of a Papal visit to Ireland has been given a further boost after his representative here spoke about the Pontiff's great affection for the Irish people.
Speaking during a visit to Moyross in Limerick, Archbishop Charles Brown said it would be "his biggest joy" as Papal Nuncio to have Pope Francis visit Ireland.
His comments come just days after Ireland's new Ambassador to the Holy See presented her letters of credentials to the Pope in the Vatican.
Pope Francis and Ambassador Emma Madigan had a private conversation about developments in Ireland and her hope that he might visit the island in the future.
Speaking at Corpus Christi Church yesterday, Archbishop Brown recalled a long, private meeting with Pope Francis when Ireland was also discussed.
"I was with him this summer for a nice meeting, just the two of us, in July. I know he has a great love for the Irish people and a special appreciation for the Irish people's love for the mother of God, Mary, which is very, very close to his heart."
Archbishop Brown said there are many links between Ireland and Pope Francis - who studied English in Dublin in the 1970s.
"It would be the biggest joy I would ever have as Apostolic Nuncio in Ireland to have the Pope visit Ireland. With God all things are possible, so we just have to see." he added. The only Pope to visit Ireland was John Paul II in 1979. However, he did not come north of the border.
His advisers had feared that he could be a target for loyalist paramilitaries and that his visit would heighten sectarian tensions at the height of the Troubles.
There has been much speculation about a visit to Ireland since Francis' papacy began in March 2013. In March, Belfast City Council voted in favour of inviting the new Pope to the city.