Almost 40 per cent of the population plan to see Pope Francis when he visits Ireland in 2018, according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll.
Asked if they planned to go and see the pope, 38 per cent said they did, 51 per cent said they did not and 11 per cent had no opinion.
There is a big difference in the attitudes of younger and older people towards seeing the pope. Francis will arrive in August 2018 to attend the Vatican’s World Meeting of Families in Dublin.
More than half of people aged over 65 plan to see the pope and almost half of those aged between 50 and 65 are also planning to see him.
However, younger people are not nearly as enthusiastic, with just a quarter of those aged between 18 and 34 wishing to see him, while the figure for the 34-50 age bracket is 35 per cent.
Women are more enthusiastic about seeing the pope than men and there are also some interesting class differences, with middle-class voters and farmers more enthusiastic than working-class voters.
In party political terms Fianna Fail voters are the most keen to see the pope, with almost half of them planning to go, while Fine Gael supporters are the next most enthusiastic, with over 40 per cent wanting to see him.
The numbers are expected to be nowhere near the estimated 2.7 million (almost half the island’s population) who came out in September 1979 when pope Saint John Paul 11 came here.
Then the population of the Republic was 3.36 million and 87 per cent of Catholics attended weekly Mass.
On September 29th, 1979, the first day of that visit, more than a million people gathered for the papal Mass in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, believed to be the largest gathering of Irish people in history.
The World Meeting of Families Congress “promotes the pastoral care of families, protects their rights and dignity in the church and in civil society, so that they may ever be more able to fulfil their duties”.
A schedule for the visit will not be finalised until shortly before August 2018, but it seems certain Francis will visit Northern Ireland, doing what pope Saint John Paul 11 was unable to in 1979.