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Bishops to invite Pope to visit Northern Ireland

.- The bishops of Ireland have announced the possibility of a historic visit by Pope John Paul II to Northern Ireland.  The bishops hope to invite the Pope to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his visit to Ireland with a Mass in the province of Ulster.

Speaking on state broadcaster RTE, Bishop Michael Smith of Meath said, “I think it is fair to say there will be discussions with Rome and if the Pope is open to an invitation, no one is going to deny him an invitation.”

If the trip went ahead it would be the first time the head of the Catholic Church has ever set foot in Northern Ireland.

In 1979, John Paul II could not visit Ulster because of violence among Protestants, who support British rule, and Catholics, who favor the unification of Ireland.

“Could he come now (to Northern Ireland)? I think he could,” said Bishop Smith.

According to the Reuters report, any decision on the Pope visiting Northern Ireland would depend on the permission of the British government, which would have to mount an unprecedented security operation to protect him.

“A lot will depend on his counselors, on his advisers, on his health and on circumstances here,” said Donal McKeown, auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor.

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