Taoiseach Enda Kenny invites Pope to Ireland
The Pope has been invited to the Republic by Taoiseach Enda Kenny – who expressed his hope that the pontiff would also visit Northern Ireland.
Mr Kenny made the announcement yesterday after he met with Pope Francis following the double canonisation of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II in St Peter's Square.
"I invited him to Ireland, and while it's not an official responsibility of the Government, I did say that if the Church authorities extended an invitation and he's willing to travel, the Government will see to it that everything is done to make that visit a real success," he said.
"It would be my hope that if it does happen, that the Pope would travel to Northern Ireland as well, given the changed events in politics where you've had the circle of history closed, as Her Majesty referred to, with her visit a few years ago, and Uachtaran Higgins' visit to Britain in the last few weeks."
When asked if the pontiff had reacted to his invitation, Mr Kenny said: "Well, I wouldn't say that his eyes lit up, but he did of course recognise the country I was speaking about."
Speaking alongside Cardinal Sean Brady at the Irish College in Rome, Mr Kenny described the double canonisation of the Popes as "an extraordinary event and I was happy to be here on behalf of the Irish people".
There was controversy last month after Belfast City Council voted in favour of inviting the Pope to visit. Unionists abstained, suggesting it could heighten sectarian tensions.
However, an invite to Northern Ireland is up to the Executive, not Belfast City Council, according to the Secretary of State. Theresa Villiers has also said it would be "a very positive step".
Peter Robinson has said he would be open to meeting with Pope Francis.