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Pope Francis Pontiff says to visit Ireland in August

The Vatican had already indicated last year that Francis intended to attend the ninth edition of the WMOF after having attended the previous one in Philadelphia in 2015.

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Pope Francis confirms in weekly general audience on St Peter's Square in the Vatican that he will travel to Ireland in August play

Pope Francis confirms in weekly general audience on St Peter's Square in the Vatican that he will travel to Ireland in August

(AFP)

Pope Francis said Wednesday he will visit Ireland in August, the first trip to the country by a pontiff since John Paul II went there in 1979.

"I intend to go to Dublin on August 25 and 26 this year for the World Meeting of Families," the pope said in his weekly general audience on Saint Peter's Square.

The Vatican had already indicated last year that Francis intended to attend the ninth edition of the WMOF after having attended the previous one in Philadelphia in 2015.

Francis has made family life one of the central themes of his papacy and dedicated a 260-page "apostolic exhortation" -- an update of Church teaching and practice -- to the issue in 2016.

Held every three years, the WMOF "brings together families from across the world to celebrate, pray and reflect upon the central importance of marriage and the family as the cornerstone of our lives, of society and of the Church," according to a statement sent by the Vatican.

The festival will include exhibitions, cultural events and musical performances, with events around Dublin, the statement said.

It will close this year with a "festival of families" on August 25 and a Holy Mass on August 26 to be attended by thousands of pilgrims from all over the world.

Since John Paul II visited the country has undergone momentous social and economic change. The Church's influence in what was once one of the most fervently Catholic countries in the world is now greatly reduced, not least because of the way it has handled the scandal over paedophile priests.

Ireland voted to allow same-sex marriages in a historic referendum in 2015 and is scheduled to hold a referendum on abortion at the end of May.

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