Pope urged to reconsider plan not to go to the North

Pope urged to reconsider plan not to go to the North Bishop Donal McKeown
IC poll finds 68% would support trip


Northern bishops have vowed to work to overturn a Vatican decision that would see Pope Francis skipping a historic trip to the North during his planned Irish visit this August.

There has been widespread disappointment at the fact that the anticipated papal trip for the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) will be limited to Dublin. A poll on The Irish Catholic Facebook page found that 68% of respondents wanted the Pontiff to go North and complete the 1979 trip of St John Paul II. During that time, a visit to the North was prevented because of an upsurge in sectarian violence in the region.

Church leaders in the North have expressed their disbelief and sadness that the Pontiff will not be journeying there.

“My heart was so set on it, it seemed so obvious that a second Pope should not come to Ireland and fail to visit the North where there is this great wound in Ireland, and it seemed like the obvious place for Francis to go,” said Bishop Alan McGuckian of Raphoe.

“I’m delighted that the Pope is coming,” he said, before adding, “I’m disappointed that it looks like he

may not visit the North, which I believe and still believe was a hugely important opportunity.”

The Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown echoed similar sentiments and said that northern bishops will “make our voices heard through appropriate channels”.

He said he believed that the Pope’s presence would be an opportunity for reflection on the past. “I do think people in the North have come through terrible times…I really think that there would be many people who would appreciate an opportunity to display just how far we have come and reflect on the past.

“It is very unfortunate that, for whatever reason – and I am not privy to those discussions – north of the border doesn’t appear to be in the agenda for a Papal visit,” Bishop McKeown said.

The bishop added that even a “short visit” would be a viable option, and that Catholics in the North need to make their voices heard to make this a reality.

“I think we would want to take the feelings of the big congregations that we still have here in the North, make those heard in the Vatican – we are still five months out – to reconsider the decision and have a short visit to the North,” he said.