Easter Rising Centenary celebrations could affect potential Papal visit

Pope Francis’ visit meant to reconcile rather than divide

The head of the peace-building charity Co-operation Ireland has suggested that the manner in which the centenary of the Easter Rising is commemorated in 2016 could have a significant bearing in creating the right atmosphere for a visit by the Pope to the North.

Peter Sheridan, who played a key role in orchestrating the historic meeting between Queen Elizabeth and deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness in Belfast, told The Irish Catholic “there would be no point in the Pope coming if it was just to see Catholic people.

“When the Pope’s visit does happen, it has to be done in such a way as to promote healing,” he said.

Tipping Point

“There will never be a time when the Pope would be welcomed by everybody in Northern Ireland,  but we have to get to a stage where the tipping point is such that a State visit by the Pope, like the State visit by the Queen [to the Republic], would be seen in a way that would help reconciliation and not cause division.”

Mr Sheridan said that the Queen’s visit to the Republic “had the potential to create further division” but it hadn’t done so “because it was handled remarkably well.”

He said that he had heard suggestions about a possible visit by Pope Francis in the second half of 2016.

“We would have to be careful how the [1916] Centenary is commemorated as all such anniversaries have the potential for further division.”

Mr Sheridan, a committed Catholic and a former Assistant Chief Constable of the PSNI said that Co-operation Ireland “is about reconciliation across this island and between these islands” and “they would be delighted to help” with a papal visit in that context.

He said that Pope Francis has brought “a freshness of approach and is willing to think differently”.