Invitation to Pope's Mass in Dublin for DUP's Arlene Foster
DUP leader Arlene Foster is to be invited to attend Pope Francis' Mass in Dublin later this month.
The Taoiseach's department has said it plans to invite the leaders of all local political parties to the huge service in Phoenix Park on August 26.
An appearance by Mrs Foster would be seen as a bridge-building step by the former First Minister as she attempts to reposition the DUP as increasingly tolerant and inclusive, following on from her attendance at the Ulster GAA football final, and an event in Belfast celebrating Ramadan in June.
She also became the first DUP leader to speak at an LGBT event here last month.
It would not be the first Catholic religious service attended by Mrs Foster. There was applause from mourners as she arrived for the funeral of Martin McGuinness last year.
In a memorable image from the funeral, Mrs Foster and Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill were photographed reaching out to shake hands among a sea of mourners.
It is not known if Mrs Foster will attend the papal Mass as no one from the DUP was available for comment yesterday.
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says he will express his concerns to the Pope about the Catholic Church's involvement with sexual and physical abuse during his visit.
The Taoiseach also said he intended to tell Pope Francis that Ireland accepts gay parents. As part of his visit, the pontiff will go to the Capuchin Day Centre for the homeless in Dublin and Knock Shrine. However, it is not yet clear whether he will meet victims of clerical abuse.
Mr Varadkar said that while his meeting with the Pope at Dublin Castle could be short, he will express his concerns about issues such as the Catholic Church's involvement in Magdalene Laundries.
"I'm really glad the Pope is visiting Ireland, the visit is very welcome," Mr Varadkar said.
"I will certainly want to express to him the real concerns that Irish people have on the legacy of the past, in relation to issues such as the Church's involvement in Magdalene Laundries, in mother and baby homes, and sexual and physical abuse, and relay that to him.
"And also our views in society and the government's view that families come in all sorts of different forms, and that includes families led by same-sex parents, and one-parent families as well."