Taoiseach invites Pope Francis to IrelandSunday 27 April 2014 16.37
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has invited Pope Francis to visit Ireland.
He extended the invitation at a face-to-face meeting during a greeting line in the Vatican after the canonisation mass for Saints John the XXIII and John Paul II.
Mr Kenny told reporters that, as a Taoiseach who happens to be a Catholic, he had had the privilege of meeting the Pope.
Recalling the invitation, he said that while it was not an official responsibility of the Government, he told the Pontiff that if the Irish Catholic Church authorities extended an invitation and if he was willing to travel, the Government would see to it that everything was done to make the visit a real success.
A spokesman for the Catholic Bishops' Conference said that shortly after Pope Francis' election last March, Cardinal Seán Brady, the Primate of All Ireland, had issued an informal invitation.
On 29 September 1979, John Paul II began the first and only Papal visit to Ireland, which lasted three days and attracted one million people to the main event, a Mass in Dublin's Phoenix Park.
However, he was unable to travel to Northern Ireland because of the fear that his security would be threatened there in the midst of the Troubles.
Speaking following a lunch at Rome's Pontiifical Irish College this afternoon and flanked by Cardinal Seán Brady the Archbishop of Armagh, Mr Kenny said he hoped Pope Francis would travel to Northern Ireland during any visit to the country.
He cited what he called "the changed events in politics where you have had 'the circle of history close' as Her Majesty (Queen Elizabeth) referred to with her visit (to the Republic of Ireland) a few years ago."
Mr Kenny also cited President Michael D Higgins' visit to Britain in the last few weeks - from a political point of view these events warrant to be built upon.
Asked how Pope Francis responded to the invitation, Mr Kenny said: "Well I won't say that his eyes lit up".
He said Francis "did recognise the country I was coming from".