The Guardian reports that Pope Francis will touch down at Dublin airport on Saturday morning for a 36-hour trip to a country whose national identity was once steeped in conservative Catholicism but which has undergone a social revolution in the four decades since the last papal visit.
His historic trip, only the second by a serving pope, comes under the dark shadow of sexual abuse by Irish priests and cover-up by senior church figures with which Ireland is still struggling to come to terms. The visit will also put Francis in a global spotlight as the Vatican is reeling from scandals this year in the US, Australia and Chile.
Nevertheless, flags in Vatican colours are lining the River Liffey, and souvenir sellers have stocked up on Pope Francis dolls (€35, made in Spain), candles, rosary beads, fridge magnets, mugs, T-shirts and “lollipopes”. A giant drive-through confession box has been erected by bookmakers Paddy Power; “Repent decades of sins in seconds!” urges a hoarding outside.