Speculation mounts on Benedict visit to N Ireland

With the peace process in Northern Ireland advancing, speculation is growing that Pope Benedict will make a long mooted visit to the divided Armagh county together with Queen Elizabeth in early 2007.

The Irish Newshound reports that Archbishop of Armagh Dr Sean Brady formally invited the Pope to visit Ireland during a recent ad limina pilgrimage to Rome by Irish bishops.

During the audience, the pope had described the peace process as "close to my heart".

"For many years, Christian representatives of all denominations, political leaders and many men and women of good will have been involved in seeking means to ensure a brighter future for Northern Ireland," he told the Irish bishops.

"Although the path is arduous, much progress has been made in recent times. It is my prayer that the committed efforts of those concerned will lead to the creation of a society marked by a spirit of reconciliation, mutual respect and willing cooperation for the common good of all."

With elections to a new Northern Ireland Assembly proposed for March, there are suggestions that Benedict could make his oft-mooted visit to Armagh around that time, possibly in tandem with a visit by Queen Elizabeth II.

In hise invitation, Archbishop Brady told Pope Benedict that h would "discover in Ireland a country of warm welcome but also of change".

Despite the benefits of strong economic growth that has brought "many welcome benefits", there were also "social, moral and spiritual challenges", Archbishop Brady told the pope.

Among these was a loss of "Christian memory", which he said was part of a European malaise.

For this reason, Archbishop Brady said the Irish bishops had invited Benedict to proclaim St Columbanus as a patron saint of Europe.

"In light of the growing loss of Europe's Christian memory and heritage and recalling the courage and witness of those who, like Columbanus, restored that memory in the past, the Church in Ireland asks you to consider our request that St Columbanus be proclaimed co-patron of Europe," Dr Brady said.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Embassy in Rome has announced that there will be no official meeting between the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Benedict XVI when the Pontiff visits Turkey in late November, AdnKronos International reports.

Erdogan will be attending a NATO summit in Estonia, "a very important appointment for us," explained embassy staff.

However, the Pope will however meet the President, Necdet Sezer, and the head of the religious affairs directorate, Ali Bardakoglu, the grand mufti of Turkey.

The details of the program are still being finalised, especially regarding possible meetings with civil and political authorities in Ankara.

According to unnamed Vatican sources, Benedict XVI is planning to make a three-stop journey to Turkey, taking in Istanbul, Ankara and Ephesus, the site of the most important sanctuary to the Virgin Mary in Anatolia.

Pope talks of peace process as visit speculation mounts (Newshound, 1/11/06)
Vatican: Pope not to meet Erdogan during visit (Ad Kronos International, 1/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
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2 Nov 2006