Ulster to get just 2,500 tickets for Pope’s visit
Just 2,500 tickets have been allocated to Catholics in Northern Ireland to attend a host of open-air events during the Pope's visit to England and Scotland next month.
But none have been allocated to believers in the Republic — despite the Catholic Church being an all-Ireland institution.
It was expected that tens of thousands of Catholics from all over the island would travel to Britain to see Pope Benedict on his whirlwind four-day official visit.
However only 2,500 so-called ‘pilgrim passes' for the Pope's open-air Mass at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow have been made available to parishes in Northern Ireland, with none allocated to the Republic.
But last night Irish Church sources said that because the Irish Bishops' Conference is an all-Ireland body, every effort would be made to distribute the modest allocation among all 26 dioceses across the island.
Tickets for two other major events — a prayer vigil in London's Hyde Park and a ceremony marking the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman at Cofton Park in Birmingham — will only be given to parishes in England and Wales.
Security at all three public celebrations will be tight and visitors must travel in parish groups headed by a ‘pilgrim leader'. Each person in the group must hold a pass to gain admission.
This means that the only opportunity for many Irish Catholics to see the Pope will be when he travels through the streets of Edinburgh and London in the Popemobile.
A spokesman for the Scottish Catholic Bishops Conference said only parishes in Northern Ireland would receive passes as the Pope, having been invited by the Queen, will be on a State rather than a pastoral visit. “There are two ways the Irish can see the Pope — they could get involved in the street celebrations in Edinburgh or, depending on their connections with the north, they could go through parishes there,” he added.