Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has said that Pope Francis has told him he will be addressing issues at the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) here next year in the context of the hotly-debated message of the bishops' global synod on the family and in light of "difficulties Ireland has gone through".

Three days before meeting Pope Francis in the Vatican along with the rest of the Irish hierarchy, the Archbishop of Dublin also reported that the Pontiff wants to direct next year's remarks about the family to other parts of the world as well as to Ireland.

Archbishop Martin added that the pope had remarked that he is getting on in years and that he might not even be alive when the Synod is scheduled to take place in Dublin in August 2018.

In previous remarks, Dr Martin has indicated that Pope Francis had committed his successor to coming here next year were he not to live until then.

Dr Martin, who is President of the WMOF, encouraged people to pray that the Pope - who turned 80 last month - will come here for the triennial event next August. 

"Pope Francis has said now to so many people that he wants to come, that we can be sure that this is his intention, " Dr Martin said in a video interview posted on the Irish Bishops' Conference website.

"Pope Francis told me there's something about the message of the synod, there's something about the difficulties Ireland has gone through, that offers him an opportunity to say things that he wants to say about the family, not just to Ireland but to other parts of the world."

Last Sunday, the Archbishop of Dublin joined 28 other representatives of the country's 26 dioceses to begin a ten-day round of meetings with Vatican officials and a collective meeting with the Pope on Friday.

The talks, which normally take place every five years, focus on reports from each diocese.

'Great confusion, uncertainty and insecurity in the Church'

Much controversy surrounds Amoris Laetitia ("The Joy of Love"), Pope Francis' report on the global bishops' synod which he summoned on the topic of the family in October 2014 and again twelve months later.

Four cardinals recently asked the Pontiff to clarify his position on access to Holy Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, one of the synod's more controversial topics.

Last week, one of them, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, the retired archbishop of Bologna, justified their action saying that "only a blind man could deny there's great confusion, uncertainty and insecurity in the Church."

"It's caused by some paragraphs in Amoris Laetitia," the Italian Cardinal said. 

To date, the Church has taught that any Catholic who is living with a civilly divorced partner who has not received a Church annulment may only receive Holy Communion if the couple lives like brother and sister.  

The pope's reported reference to "difficulties Ireland has gone through" is more opaque, but it hardly excludes the almost a quarter-of-a-century of scandals surrounding official church cover-ups of clerical child sexual abuse here.

In the wake of decades of turmoil, Pope Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict, ordered a multi-pronged investigation of the Irish Church before retiring in 2013. 

It is likely that, while in Ireland - or in a video message if his health does not permit him to travel - Pope Francis will also refer to abortion whether or not the Government of his host country has decided on holding a referendum on the issue.

There is considerable pressure in political circles to amend the 1983 Eighth Amendment to the Constitution which tightly restricts the availability of terminations here.

The clause was endorseded by a two-to-one majority of voters in a plebiscite 33 years ago. Its future is currently being discussed by a Citizens' Assembly - 99 voters randomly selected to broadly represent the electorate - which is due to report to the legislature by the middle of this year.

The Government plans to refer the controversial topic to a parliamentary committee before the Government is faced with making a decision on whether to hold another referendum on abortion. That could be close to the date of the planned Papal visit.

In the video, Archbishop Martin is not specifically asked to address either the scandals or the abortion issue.

"My biggest hope is that the World Meeting of Families will be an occasion to renew confidence in the family," he told his interviewer.