Pope Francis will "do everything he can" to come to Ireland next year, a senior Vatican official has said.

Several months after Taoiseach Enda Kenny broke news of the intended visit, the Holy See confirmed plans are being made for the pontiff to travel.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Holy See's Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, said it is hoped the pope will attend the church's World Meeting of Families in Dublin in August 2018.

"If the pope is possibly able to be there, and circumstances around the world permit him to be able to go there, I'm sure he will do everything he possibly can, at least that's what he has expressed, to be there," the cardinal said.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said: "If he does come, he'll surprise us and challenge us.

"It will be very different from an earlier visit, the only time a pope came to Ireland. Ireland has changed. The pope has changed and he will live up to challenging us."

A visit by the pontiff would be the first by the head of the Catholic Church since Pope John Paul II visited in 1979.

The World Meeting of Families, which is held every three years, takes place in Dublin from 21-26 August 2018.