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Visit Northern Ireland’s religious leaders urge pope

ARMAGH (UCAN): The La Croix daily reported on May 9 that head of the archdiocese of Armagh and primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, joined Protestant leaders in urging Pope Francis to extend his August visit to the country’s North. The pope is slated to visit Dublin in August for the World Meeting of Families—the first papal visit to Ireland since 1979. On that occasion Pope John Paul II was unable to travel north due to the problems there at the time.
The report cited The Irish News which said that the leaders of Ireland’s Protestant Churches—including the Church of Ireland primate, Archbishop Richard Clarke; Presbyterian moderator, Dr. Noble McNeely; Methodist president, Dr. Lawrence Graham; and the president of the Irish Council of Churches, Bishop John McDowell—wrote to the pope last December in what is viewed as an “unprecedented intervention,” urging him to visit the north saying it would promote the “cause of peace and reconciliation” across the island.
Archbishop Martin was reported as telling the Belfast Telegraph: “My fellow bishops and I worked hard to make the case for a visit, but the situation is completely different to 1979 when Pope John Paul II made a national visit to Ireland.”
He added, however, that, “I’m keeping my hopes up because the conditions are right for a papal visit to Northern Ireland to help him make a contribution to the peace we have here and which we hold in such a fragile manner.
The archbishop expressed hope that during the World Meeting of Families “there will be an opportunity for some gesture or words from Pope Francis to speak about our situation.”
In their letter to the pope, the Protestant leaders said, “We know that members of the Catholic Church, both north and south of the border, will be greatly encouraged if these visits were to come about,” adding that, “The potential that a visit to Northern Ireland could have in promoting peace and reconciliation throughout the island cannot be underestimated.”

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