Pope Francis Is Going to Ireland

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Pope Francis will visit Ireland in 2018, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said Monday, becoming the first Pontiff to visit the country since Pope John Paul II’s tour in 1979.

Kenny confirmed the visit after a 20-minute audience with the Pope at the Vatican, the Guardian reports. Kenny issued the formal invitation during that meeting.

The Pope will travel to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families scheduled for August of 2018. Kenny’s Vatican trip is seen as a bridge-building exercise after he attacked the Catholic leadership in 2011 over the child sexual abuse scandals.

Kenny was accompanied by Emma Madigan—the Irish ambassador to the Holy See—and his wife Fionnuala.

“I was happy to conform to him that Church/ State relations are in a better shape than they were for very many year,” Kenny told the Irish Independent. “That we work very well with the Bishops and the clergy, that there are so many more safeguards in place than there were before and that… I regard these relations as being at a healthier position than they were for many years.”

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