Belfast Telegraph

Catholics in tickets scramble as Pope rules out trip to Northern Ireland

By Sarah MacDonald

The Pope's decision not to visit Northern Ireland when he visits the Republic in August is expected to lead to a massive scramble for tickets by Catholics north of the border.

Those hoping to see Pope Francis have been warned that places will be capped at each venue for health and safety reasons.

Yesterday, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin revealed that those attending the outdoor papal Mass in the Phoenix Park on the afternoon of Sunday, August 26 will have to obtain a ticket and these have been limited to 500,000.

An additional 20,000 places in the Phoenix Park have been reserved for volunteers, priests, security and health staff and choirs.

However, an additional 80,000 tickets will be kept aside for overflow, as required by health and safety regulations.

The Festival of Families, which Pope Francis will attend on the evening of Saturday, August 25 in Croke Park, will be restricted to 80,000 tickets, while the crowd who will hear the Pope recite the Angelus in Knock will be capped at just 45,000 people.

This is despite the fact that tens of thousands of Catholics from Northern Ireland are expected to look for tickets for Phoenix Park and Knock now that a papal visit north of the border has been ruled out.

Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, said: "We were really hoping this might be an opportunity and I think he really would love to come to Northern Ireland, but I suppose the pressures of this particular event and all he wants to do for the World Meeting of the families have overtaken that.

"I don't get any sense from those I have been speaking to that the Holy Father is ruling out the possibility of ever coming to Northern Ireland.

"I think there will have to be a specific visit and I hope it will be soon."

Registrations from Catholics in Northern Ireland for the World Meeting of Families Congress in Dublin's RDS over August 22-24 have already exceeded expectations.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, president of the World Meeting of Families (WMOF2018), explained to the media why registrations were being capped for papal events.

He said that when Pope John Paul II came to Ireland in 1979, "there were two words that weren't used - health and safety. We have a very different regime now and rightly so".

The Pope's first engagement will be a meeting with Michael D Higgins at Aras an Uachtarain.

He will then travel to Dublin Castle for a civic reception hosted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Mr Varadkar said yesterday that the event will mark a "significant visit by a global and spiritual leader to Ireland".

An online portal for tickets will open on June 25. It is understood some parishes are already planning 'registration days' for older people who may not be comfortable using the internet.

Belfast Telegraph

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