The Derry-born leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland believes a Papal visit to Northern Ireland is now more likely than it has ever been.
Archbishop Eamon Martin’s remarks come amid speculation that Pope Francis may visit Ireland in 2018 after he announced that the next Catholic World Meeting of Families will take place in Dublin.
The Pope was speaking at Mass in Philadelphia during his recent visit to the United States.
The World Meeting of Families, which was started by John Paul II in 1994, takes place every three years at different locations around the world.
A Pope has attended six of the eight events, two of which were held in Rome.
At the other two, they took part via a satellite link.
If Pope Francis does attend the 2018 event in Ireland, it will be the first time a pontiff has been in Ireland since Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1979.
Initially, that visit was to have included a trip North of the border but, it’s understood, this was scrapped in the wake of the killings of Lord Mountbatten and 18 British soldiers at Warrenpoint.
Pope Francis has a long-standing invitation from the Irish bishops to visit Ireland.
Archbishop Martin says it would be wonderful if he could travel North of the border, acknowledging that it was the most likely it’s ever been that a Pope may visit the Six Counties.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, of Dublin, says he believes Pope Francis is determined to visit Ireland.
He indicated it could be known before the end of October if Pope Francis will visit.
The North’s Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, says the prospect of a Papal visit - including the North - in 2018 is “most welcome.
He added that, if it did happen, it “will be warmly received.”
Meanwhile, Archbishop Eamon Martin travels to Rome next week to attend an Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.
The theme of the three week long discussion is “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World”.
More than 360 participants, including 18 married couples from around the world, are expected to attend the Synod of Bishops on the family.
After the Synod, the Bishops will present the Pope with their recommendations. Pope Francis will then evaluate their proposals and provide the Church with guidance.
It will be the fourteenth meeting of the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.