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1979: Pope calls for peace in Ireland

VIDEO : Pope kisses Irish soil at Dublin's airport

Pope John Paul II has called on the people of Ireland to end all violence and return to "the ways of peace".

The 57-year-old pontiff made his appeal in front of a 300,000-strong crowd at Drogheda, a few miles from the Northern Irish border, during the first day of an historic tour of southern Ireland.

The Pope touched down at Dublin airport earlier today where he was met by the Irish president, Dr Patrick Hillery and a host of religious leaders.

It is the first time a reigning Pope has ever visited this devoutly Catholic country and John Paul II, who became Pope just 11 months ago, appears determined to use the trip to broadcast his messages of peace.

'Passionate pleading'

Before travelling to Drogheda he was flown to Phoenix Park in Dublin where he delivered an open-air sermon to more than 1.25 million people - nearly a third of Ireland's entire population.

He was loudly applauded at Drogheda when he said, in a direct address to the consciences of both terrorists and politicians: "I appeal to you in language of passionate pleading.

"On my knees I beg you to turn away from the paths of violence and return to the ways of peace."

He continued: "To Catholics, to Protestants, my message is peace and love. May no Irish Protestant think the Pope is an enemy, a danger or a threat."

He also called on Ireland's youth not to engage in violence: "I appeal to young people who may have become caught up in organisations engaged in violence.

"I say to you, with all the love I have for you, with all the trust I have in young people: Do not listen to voices which speak the language of hatred, revenge, retaliation."

The Pope's original schedule had included a visit to Armagh in Northern Ireland but the Vatican called off the plans to go north of the border a day after the murder of Lord Mountbatten and the IRA ambush which resulted in the deaths of 18 soldiers in Warrenpoint in County Down.

The cost of this eagerly-awaited papal visit will cost the Irish government in excess of 2.5m but the expense appears not to matter to the millions of Catholics in Ireland.

Preparations have been taking place for weeks.

The entire Dublin police force has had all leave cancelled for the duration of the visit, bunting in the papal colours of yellow and white has been hung across the city and people have travelled from all over the country to catch a glimpse of the dynamic Polish priest.

The rest of his trip will include visits to Galway and the Marian shrine at Knock in County Mayo where, 100 years ago, local people claimed to have seen apparitions of the Virgin Mary.

It is anticipated that more than 500,000 people will attend an open-air mass at Knock.

The following day he will visit St Patrick's College at Maynooth and then travel by helicopter to Limerick before leaving for Boston airport to begin a tour of the United States.

In Context
Born Karol Wojtyla in May 1922 in Krakow, Poland, John Paul II was the first non-Italian to become Pope for 400 years and the youngest for 150 years.

He became a priest in 1946 before taking doctorates in theology and philosophy and studying in Rome.

At the age of 38 he became a bishop and at 44 was made Archbishop of Krakow.

He became Pope on 16 October 1978. His predecessor, Pope John Paul I, died just 33 days after his election.

Although dogged by health problems in recent years, as a young man he enjoyed devoting his energies to sports such as football and skiing. An avid theatre lover, at one time he also considered becoming an actor.

The Pope died at 2137 (1937 GMT) on Saturday 2 April 2005 after he failed to recover from a throat operation.


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