Francis to draw thousands of overseas visitors
Thousands of overseas visitors will flock to Ireland in August to see Pope Francis.
Pilgrims from as far afield as China and Africa will take part in festivities linked to the papal visit.
More than 10,000 overseas visitors have already bought tickets to attend the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) at the RDS.
However, numbers are expected to increase dramatically when free tickets to events in Knock and the Phoenix Park are released.
Organisers told the Herald that they have had applications from 114 countries, making this one of the most international gatherings ever held in Ireland.
There is huge interest from the UK, with nearly 700 people from England registering so far.
The US will also be heavily represented. So far, nearly 500 tickets have been sold there.
Another 120 tickets have gone to Canada.
Tickets sold to Spain number 453, Congo 143, South Africa 67, China seven and Saudi Arabia two.
The economic impact of Pope Francis's visit will primarily be felt in Dublin, but organisers believe many visitors will go beyond the capital to see tourist sites around the country.
"There are a lot of people coming in groups a few days before the RDS Congress starts and they will visit some of the many tourism sites around the country," said WMOF spokesperson Brenda Drumm.
She said many visitors were likely to stay on after August 26.
An event in Croke Park, which is a centrepiece of the WMOF conference, is already fully subscribed.
Tickets for Pope Francis's appearances at Knock Shrine and in the Phoenix Park were set to be released this morning.
Organisers decided not to pre-announce the exact time at which the ticket portal was to go live amid fears a rush to place orders could crash the websites.
It is expected that 45,000 tickets for Knock on Sunday, August 26, will be quickly snapped up.
There is a capacity of some 500,000 people for the Phoenix Park, meaning tickets for the Pope's Mass in Dublin will be much easier to access, although demand is expected to be high.