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Thursday 19 April 2018

'Phoenix Park is only venue large enough for Pope's visit' - Dr Martin

Pope John Paul II said Mass to more than one million people in the Phoenix Park during his 1979 visit. Photo: SSPL/Manchester Daily Express
Pope John Paul II said Mass to more than one million people in the Phoenix Park during his 1979 visit. Photo: SSPL/Manchester Daily Express
Pope Francis. Photo:

Pope Francis is planning to say Mass in the Phoenix Park when he visits Dublin next year.

The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, said it is seen as the only venue large enough to host what would be a massive gathering.

The cost of the trip is likely to be €20m. Church collections will raise about €5m, while the rest will come from fundraising.

Scandals

Such a Mass would see the Pope follow in the footsteps of John Paul II, who said Mass in the park in 1979 to a crowd of more than one million people.

However, with the Catholic Church's reputation now severely damaged by a string of child sex abuse scandals, it is unlikely the park will see the such a huge gathering for Pope Francis.

The Pope is due to visit Dublin for the World Meeting of Families, which runs from August 21-26

There was previous speculation the Mass could be held in Croke Park. However, the Archbishop stressed that plans have not been finalised.

"We are working now on the things that [Francis] would like to do when he comes to Dublin," said Dr Martin.

"He is very anxious that he comes.

"He doesn't like protocol. And he would love to have occasions to meet ordinary people - and people in difficulties. Not just to be whizzed around.

"He wants to go around and visit the places where people are struggling.

"He very often does this just on his own. He won't bring all his entourage with him."

The Archbishop said the Pontiff's age would be taken into account when planning his itinerary.

Safety

"Two things. First, when Pope John Paul came he was almost 60. When Pope Francis comes, he will be 81. So you can't expect the same level of activity," he said.

"Second, when Pope John Paul came to the Phoenix Park, health and safety norms - nobody ever thought of them. Now, it is quite complicated."

Asked if an attendance of 350,000 was planned for the Phoenix Park Mass, Dr Martin said he thought it would be more, but would not be drawn on a figure of 500,000.

"We'll see what the demand is," he said.

The event would need a special licence from Dublin City Council.

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