The Belfast Telegraph reports that Pope Benedict XVI has expressed hopes of visiting Ireland in what would be the first papal visit to the Emerald Isle in almost thirty years.
The Pope reportedly made his wishes known to Cardinal Sean Brady at a private audience. Cardinal Brady, one of the 23 new cardinals created last Saturday, repeated the invitation he made last year on behalf of the Irish hierarchy.
Speaking immediately after his audience, Cardinal Brady said: "I took the opportunity of our brief meeting to renew the invitation on behalf of the Irish Episcopal Conference."
Cardinal Brady revealed that the Holy Father said in response: "I hope so."
Another papal visit could complete the "unfinished business" of Pope John Paul II's earlier visit. His attempt to visit Armagh, the ancient seat of Saint Patrick, was thwarted by IRA violence.
Pope Benedict has cited on several occasions his belief that the peace settlement in Northern Ireland provides a model for the resolution of other conflicts in the world, especially those in the Middle East.
Vatican sources reportedly indicated that no commitment had yet been made, and the first definite sign of such a visit would be its inclusion in the Pope's draft travel schedule.