The Pope will visit Ireland for the first time in nearly 40 years, shortly after the country is set to hold its referendum on its 8th amendment outlawing abortion.
The Vatican announced Wednesday Pope Francis will visit Ireland during its “World Meeting of Families” Aug. 21 to 26. The trip will be the first papal visit since 1979.
“We are deeply honoured that Pope Francis will come to our country to participate in this universal church celebration of faith and joy, as well as of the contemporary challenges which face families,” the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference said in a Wednesday statement, according to The Guardian.
— Vatican Insider (EN) (@vatican_en) March 21, 2018
“With great anticipation we also look forward to hearing the apostolic guidance of His Holiness during his stay with us,” the statement continued.
Pope John Paul II visited the Catholic country in 1979 during a time when divorce was virtually impossible and homosexuality was a crime. Both practices are now legal. Ireland legalized gay marriage in May 2015 and made divorce legal in 1995. The crude divorce rate in Ireland is 0.6 percent, remarkably lower than other European countries.
The pope’s visit comes after church attendance has fallen dramatically despite most Irish identifying as Catholic. Seventy eight percent of Irish identify as Roman Catholic, but weekly church attendance has fallen below 50 percent. Weekly church attendance in Ireland was 91 percent in 1973, 80 percent during John Paul II’s visit, and 46 percent as of 2009.
Pope Francis’ visit will also follow Ireland’s May referendum on reforming the 8th amendment to allow abortion. Abortion advocates have been loudly calling for the amendment to be changed, calling it “archaic and dangerous.”
Fewer than three in 10 Irish support elective abortions, according to Breaking News. Support for elective abortions — namely, abortions for reasons other than to save the mother’s life, rape cases and grave fetal abnormalities — is low, indicating Ireland’s Repeal The 8th campaign will likely fail.
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