The internationally-acc-laimed Irish dance troupe Riverdance will be amongst those performing for Pope Francis at next month’s World Meeting of Families (WMOF) in Dublin, organisers revealed on July 19.
The group – which has been seen by some 25 million people worldwide – will be one of the key acts at a Festival of Families due to be held on the evening of Saturday, August 25, before an estimated 80,000 people at Croke Park stadium in Dublin.
As well as prominent acts like Daniel O’Donnell and Nathan Carter, the cast for the Festival of Families will include an orchestra in excess of 50 musicians; over 700 Irish Sean Nós and contemporary dancers, including 500 from Irish dance schools across the country; a 1,000 strong choir; 100 community groups, and 300 flag bearers.
WMOF spokesperson Brenda Drumm said she expects people from 116 countries to participate at the event at which the Pope will preside. Francis will also hear testimonies from families from India, Iraq, Ireland and Burkina Faso on topics as diverse as the effects of technology on family life and the value of families forgiving one another.
The Festival of Families will be a two-hour long spectacle that will consist of music, dance and worship and is choreographed as a celebration of family life. It will be one of the highlights of the WMOF2018.
Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin, who is host and president of WMOF, told reporters at a news conference at the stadium that “expectations of Pope Francis’ visit vary”.
“There is enthusiasm: within days of opening registration, the bookings for all the major events of Pope Francis’ visit were ‘sold out’. Very large numbers will come from abroad and this event will be a way to highlight modern Ireland to the world.
“This is a great opportun-ity,” he said.
He said that “one of the great attractions of Pope Francis is how he shows us that he can live in a world where Faith seems marginal and yet manages to touch hearts. He finds ways in which he can win hearts for what the teaching of Jesus involves, not through imposing and judging, but through winning and attracting”.
However, Dr Martin cautioned against thinking that the Papal visit will set a definitive plan for the renewal of the Church in Ireland after decades of scandal and decline. “Pope Francis will not work miracles,” he said, “in a visit of little more than 36 hours, it will not be possible for him to design a new roadmap for the Irish Church.
“At most he can offer the Irish Church the instruments on which that new road map can be drawn. We all have to understand however that while you can still draw maps on paper, maps today are different. They are interactive and constantly being updated.
“Pope Francis will challenge the Irish Church to be authentically the Church in a changed culture,” he said.