Belfast Telegraph

Papal visit 'would boost Irish economy'

Next year's International Eucharistic Congress will give the Irish economy a €7m boost -- a figure that could shoot up if Pope Benedict comes.

Expectations are high among Irish church leaders that Pope Benedict will agree to preside at an open-air Mass in Croke Park on June 17, 2012, at the closing ceremony of a week-long congress.

Congress organiser Anne Griffin told a conference at the RDS in Dublin yesterday that the Croke Park Mass would attract 80,000 people, and that the week-long celebration would bring an estimated 12,000 visitors to Ireland.

Congress secretary Fr Kevin Doran appealed for 300 volunteers to assist in organising the event.

The congress theme from June 10 to 17, 2012, will be 'The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and one another'.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin insisted yesterday that no plans had been put in place "at the moment" for a visit by the Pope to Dublin next year.

But Dr Martin confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI had been invited to visit Ireland by Cardinal Sean Brady on behalf of the Irish Bishops' Conference.

Pope Benedict selected Dublin to host the 50th International Congress, a series of devotional rallies which began in France in 1881 and are held every four years in different parts of the world to make Catholics aware of the importance of the Eucharist.

Dr Martin said Pope Benedict would look at the Dublin Congress in the overall context of the renewal of the Irish Church following recent revelations of clerical child abuse.

Dr Martin also said that Pope Benedict did not attend the last Congress held in Quebec in 2008, and his participation in Dublin would be subject to factors such as the state of his health.

The only previous time the Congress took place in Dublin was in 1932 when less than a decade after the Civil War it helped to unite people who had taken different sides, Dr Martin added.

But Dr Martin said that the next Dublin Congress would not be "a looking-back exercise, trying to replicate what happened in 1932" when one million Catholics attended.

Dr Martin said: "These are very different times.

"There are people who will not be interested and people who have other parts of a church agenda," he added.

Next week, on St Patrick's Day, a pilgrimage of the Congress Bell will leave Dublin's Pro Cathedral for St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh, and from there, to the other 24 dioceses in Ireland.

The bell is a symbolic invite to Irish Catholics, and Christians of other traditions, "to join in the call to faith, prayer, reconciliation and mission that is at the heart of the church's preparation for the Congress over the next year and a half".

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