Q&A: Conor Pope’s guide to Pope Francis’s visit

The World Meeting of Families explained and how it will affect transport in Dublin

The pope is coming. So, what exactly is happening?

The World Meeting of Families festival kicks off in the RDS and around the country on Tuesday, August 21st. The opening ceremony will take place simultaneously across all 26 Dioceses of Ireland that evening.

Sorry, I thought we were talking about the pope here?

We are. But were it not for the World Meeting of Families, it is very unlikely he would be coming to Ireland.


What is that again?

It is a pretty big deal within the Catholic community although the organisers have stressed that they would like it to be an ecumenical matter and have invited other faiths to play a role. It has taken place every three years since Pope John Paul II set it up in 1994. In 2015 it was in Philadelphia, in the US. There will be hundreds of speakers and seminars as well as events taking place around the country for adults and children. The organisation of the event has taken more than two years and involved a paid staff of almost 60 and a team of volunteers that will top 10,000.

And it is in the RDS? I might pop along

Might you now? Good luck with that. More than 40,000 tickets for the RDS have long since been sold out as have tickets for the climax of the six-day event, a papal address in Croke Park.

Croke Park? I thought Pope Francis was going to the Phoenix Park?

He is. But that is not all. The pope will have a busy 36 hours in Ireland after he touches down at Dublin Airport at 10.30am on Saturday, August 25th.

How busy?

Mad busy. From the airport he travels to Áras an Uachtaráin to meet President Michael D Higgins and his wife, Sabina. He will sign the visitors' book, after which there will be a private meeting. Then Francis crosses the river to Dublin Castle to meet Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, church leaders, politicians from the North and south and other luminaries. He will make his first of three speeches at the castle.

What next?

He goes from the castle on Dame Street back across the river to the church on Marlborough Street, otherwise known as St Mary's Pro-Cathedral.

After the pro-cathedral, where does he go?

He will meet homeless people at the Capuchin Fathers day centre on Bowe Street near Smithfield. This is being billed as a private visit after which he will head down Dorset Street to appear at Croke Park in front of 70,000 people. They will have been warmed up by the likes of Andrea Bocelli; Daniel O'Donnell; Nathan Carter; Paddy Moloney; Riverdance and The Priests.

So that’s Saturday. Would there anything to be said for another Mass?

There would. The big Mass happens the following day but not before Francis makes a (literally) flying visit to Knock where 45,000 people will be waiting at or near the shrine to hear him lead the Angelus. Once that is done he will fly back to Dublin for “a modest lunch with his immediate delegation” at his residence.

Where’s he staying?

We don’t know. For security reasons this information has not been released.

And what happens after lunch?

It is back to the Papal Cross in the Phoenix Park where half a million people, 4,000 communion servers, 10,000 volunteers and 3,000 choir members will be waiting to hear the pope deliver a sermon in Italian.

Italian? Sure, I don't speak Italian. What good is that to me?

Don't worry, there will be 16 massive video screens in sub-chapels around the place carrying subtitles as well as a translator. Once that is done the pope will meet the Irish bishops at the convent of the Dominican Sisters in Cabra and deliver his finial speech on Irish soil.

How disruptive will the visit be?

Pretty disruptive, to be honest. A "controlled access zone" inside the M50 from 6am to 11pm on Sunday will cause diversions, road closures and restrictions city-wide. There will also be "rolling restrictions" in Dublin on Saturday depending on where the pope is. But the National Transport Authority has said a priority is that people not interested in the pope can go about their weekend without too much disruption. People with tickets for any of the events will be allowed travel free on public transport in Dublin. Iarnród Éireann, Dublin Bus, Luas, Bus Éireann, Go-Ahead and Translink in the North are all operating special services.

Can I get a bus to the Mass?

No. Everyone who has ticket to the Mass – and without a ticket you are not getting in – will either have to walk from wherever they are or take a bus to drop-off points including Heuston Station, Smithfield and the Ashtown Gate and then use the entry point marked on the ticket.

Will the walk be long?

Yes. Depending on your age and fitness level you could find yourself walking for two hours to get to where you need to be. Attendees should allow at least eight for the event – that includes walking to the event, waiting for the pope, going to the Mass and then walking back from the event.

Did I hear talk of a morgue being put in place in the Phoenix Park?

Yes, but by all accounts that is not uncommon for major events of this nature so you’d be as well off not reading too much into it.

Will it be on the telly?

It will. And it will be covered extensively online and in print by The Irish Times too.

Is there a Popemobile?

There are two. One in Knock and another on which he will tour the Phoenix Park ahead of the big Mass. He will also be travelling in a closed car and fly into Ireland on a chartered Alitalia plane. His internal flights and his homeward-bound journey will most likely be taken care of by Aer Lingus.

Will Pope Francis meet abuse survivors and others who suffered at the hands of the church?

He will, though details of who he will meet and when he will meet them will not be released in advance to protect the anonymity of survivors. Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin has been pushing the Vatican to have the pope meet a cross-section of survivors of industrial schools, Magdalene laundries, mother and baby homes and those who suffered from clerical sex abuse.

Will there be protests?

Yes. A "solidarity event" for people hurt or abused by the Catholic Church is being organised for Dublin's Garden of Remembrance to coincide with the papal Mass in the Phoenix Park.