Tory-DUP deal puts question mark over North’s papal visit

Tory-DUP deal puts question mark over North’s papal visit

Theresa May’s plan to govern with support from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) may jeopardise a proposed visit by Pope Francis to the North, according to diplomatic sources in Rome.

According to Vatican diplomatic sources quoted in the respected Italian daily La Stampa, “cooler heads in the [Vatican] Secretariat of State may be saying this is not the time for him to visit [the North]”.

Citing fears that a deal with the DUP could alienate many Catholics in the North, the source said “to bring him [the Pope] into a situation like that, with all its religious undertones, could make him seem like a player within it”.


According to La Stampa, which is credited amongst Vatican watchers with having first-rate sources in the Holy See, the official added: “one year ago a papal visit would have been timely and prudent and a recognition of the peace process. But after Brexit, the collapse of Belfast government, and a British government in ‘coalition’ with a Protestant party it leaves a visit by the Pope looking more uncertain.”

La Stampa cites the source as saying: “this is finely-balanced diplomatic decision…few can predict the climate of Northern Ireland in 2018 and the fraught negotiations ahead.”


Any visit by Pope Francis to Ireland that did not include a stop North of the border would be seen as hugely disappointing by northern Catholics as well as Church leaders and officials in both the Irish and British governments who have worked on the peace process.

St John Paul II had wanted to cross the border during his historic 1979 trip to Ireland. However, security fears prevented this. The Polish Pontiff often referred to his trip to Ireland as “unfinished” due to the absence of a stop in the North on the schedule.

The Vatican is unlikely to confirm any details of a trip by Pope Francis until early next year.