Belfast Telegraph

We’d like to see a Papal visit to Northern Ireland, declares Varadkar

By Donna Deeney

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the Irish government would support a Papal visit to Northern Ireland.

Pope Francis will travel to Dublin in August for the World Meeting of Families, but it is thought a visit north is unlikely.

Mr Varadkar told the Dail that he has written to church authorities in support of a visit to Northern Ireland and also suggested a meeting with victims of clerical abuse.

Responding to questions from TDs, Mr Varadkar said: “I am very much aware that this is a pastoral visit and I don’t think it is the role of the Government to tell Pope Francis what he should or shouldn’t do or who he should or shouldn’t meet.

“We certainly have said we would like to facilitate a possible visit to Northern Ireland, that we would suggest it would be appropriate to meet with some of the victims and survivors of clerical abuse or abuse by state authorities and church authorities.

“We have also expressed our view as a Government that family should be respected and seen in their diversity and that there are families of all different shapes and forms.”

He added: “Whether that is children being brought up by grandparents, whether it’s same sex couples with children, whether it’s one-parent families.

“We have expressed our view as a state that that is how we see the family and that view has been put across to the church authorities, but we fully respect the separation between Church and State and that religious freedom applies to this as well.”

When the Papal visit to Dublin was first confirmed in March — the first since 1979 when Pope John Paul ll spent three days in Ireland — the Holy See did not include Northern Ireland on the planned schedule. Meanwhile, Archbishop Eamon Martin has said the church will remain firm in its opposition to gay marriage ahead of the papal visit. He said the Catholic view of marriage was one of a “faithful, loving relationship” between “a man and a woman”.

Archbishop Martin said the Pope’s visit was a “privileged opportunity” for the church to engage with the public.

“It begins with our conviction that, among the many types of family that are out there, the Catholic Church’s vision of the uniqueness of a faithful and exclusive union between a married man and a woman and their children is not simply for the privacy of our homes and churches,” he said.

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