A leading church figure has indicated that a papal visit to Ireland is now unlikely this year.

Pope Benedict XVI would visit Ireland “soon rather than later” and was “actively considering” an invitation from the Catholic Church in Ireland, the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said yesterday.

But Dr Martin added that the Irish church is not ready for a papal visit.

It had initially been hoped that Pope Benedict would attend the Eucharistic Congress taking place in Dublin this June.

However, Dr Martin yesterday indicated that such a trip was unlikely as he highlighted a number of problems that have arisen — including the Pope’s reduced travelling schedule owing to his age.

He also said a visit was unlikely until the “healing process” for victims of clerical sexual abuse is completed.

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