Pope Francis hopes to begin his historic visit to Ireland in Knock, according to today’s  Irish Independent. Organisers of the pontiff's trip are believed to be exploring the idea of having him fly directly to the west of Ireland rather than Dublin as anticipated.

When the Pope’s visit to Ireland was officially confirmed some weeks ago, Dublin was the only venue confirmed – Knock was not ruled out – but certainly wasn’t ruled in either.

This morning Midwest News has contacted Knock Shrine and we were told that they have not been informed of any new developments regarding the Pope’s visit.

However, according to the paper there has been much speculation about the type of welcome the Pope will receive - but sources say gardaí have concerns that as many as 650,000 people will want to see him in the Phoenix Park on August 26.

By holding another event at Knock a day earlier they hope to offer an alternative viewing opportunity for people.

"The Phoenix Park can cope with the crowds once they are inside but getting them safely to and from the Mass would be the problem," a source  has told the paper.

The Vatican tends to remain tight-lipped about the Pope's itinerary until shortly before he travels to a country.

It has been confirmed that the first papal visit in nearly 40 years will take place to coincide with the World Meeting of Families in Dublin between August 21-26. Pope Francis (81) is scheduled to take part in a ceremony in Croke Park on August 25, before celebrating Mass in Phoenix Park the following day.

Well-placed sources involved in logistical planning for the visit have indicated to the Irish Independent, that Knock is now firmly on the agenda. One proposal is for the pontiff to fly directly to Knock Airport, which in itself would be an historic occasion.

Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass at Knock shrine during his visit in 1979. He described his visit there as "the goal of my journey to Ireland".

Pope Francis has prayed at a number of Marian shrines while on tours to other countries, including last year when he honoured two children who saw Mary in the Portuguese town of Fátima.

It is likely that if the Pope flies directly from Rome to Knock, he will then use air transport to get to Dublin in time for a ticketed event in Croke Park.

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