A perfect venue for a Papal visit

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Sometimes it takes a major international event in the glare of the world’s media to show us how much things have changed closer to home.

Small steps are taken on a daily basis but they go largely unnoticed by many.

The recent visit to a state banquet hosted by Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle by Deputy First Minister was one such occasion.

Comments by Taoisech Enda Kenny that he hopes Pope Francis will visit the North as part of any future trip to Ireland will raise speculation that another such occasion is imminent.

Unthinkable for decades because of security concerns, a Papal visit to the North is now not just possible, but likely.

Not only would it recognise the changing face of society in the North and the distance travelled since the Papal visit in 1979, it could also be another major step towards reconciliation as unionists have already given their backing - albeit not without controversy - to an invitation to Pope Francis to visit the North.

If such a visit goes ahead within an All-Ireland context, which would be most likely, it would also help national reconciliation between north and south - which is often overlooked but absolutely necessary.

Derry, which has led the way in terms of intercommunity tolerance and respect in recent years and has been recognised as a beacon for a transformed society in the North, would be the perfect venue for any future Papal visit.

Of course, any future visit to Ireland by Pope Francis must be above mere political concerns and should be regarded, first and foremost, as a religious occasion.

However, with the clear need for healing the wounds and divisions of the past prevalent in both religion and politics, the two often intertwine.