Pope Francis would engage in the reconciliation process in Northern Ireland if he visited, as he is not afraid to engage with “real issues” according to the Bishop of Derry.
With increasing speculation that the Pope’s planned visit to Ireland may include a visit to the North, Bishop Donal McKeown said it would complete the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1979 – when a trip to Armagh was cancelled due to the security situation.
“I would say the main reason Pope Francis would come to Northern Ireland would be in order to engage with the peace process, the reconciliation process, he’d want to try and move that forward,” he said.
“He’s not afraid, as I understand, to engage with real issues.”
He said that the current political turmoil in the North “isn’t going to scare him”, despite the DUP and Sinn Féin failing to reform the Northern Executive and Assembly in Stormont, with talks resuming in late August or early September.
The Church has become embroiled in severe political situations such as in Venezuela – where over 100 people have been killed in protests after their government set up an assembly capable of changing their constitution.
“His concern is always to build bridges not to build walls, so please God he’ll certainly be in the North at some stage,” Bishop McKeown said of the Pope. “Having spent 36 years myself in Belfast, I’m only too aware that people will make him very welcome wherever in the North he comes to.”
With just a year to go until the Pope’s visit for the World Meeting of Families, Dr McKeown said that he hopes it will focus on how to create an environment where young people are able to develop in a way that doesn’t threaten their mental or physical health.
“I hope this will be a time for mature conversations within both jurisdictions on the island as to what is good, what serves the common good, and move beyond this preoccupation with assuming that if everyone does what they want to do we’ll have Heaven on Earth, which of course is rubbish,” he added.