Homeless in Phoenix Park will meet Pope – Ireland

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Pope Francis will meet homeless people who sleep in the Phoenix Park the day before he celebrates Mass there two weeks from today.

Considerable numbers of men and some women who sleep in the park arrive each morning for breakfast at the Capuchin Day Centre, said Brother Kevin Crowley.

“When Pope Francis visits us in the centre, those who sleep in the park will be among the homeless people who will be meeting with the Pope,” said Brother Kevin (83).

“The Pope recognises homeless people with his visit to give his support and love to each of them,” he added.

Brother Kevin said Pope Francis would not want homeless people who are living in city hotels to be moved to accommodation outside the city during the papal visit.

“It’s about dignity and respect. It will be a horrible disgrace if hotels who make millions from the homeless are allowed to do that,” he said.

Pope Francis will be introduced to 80 homeless people at the centre in Bow Street in what is listed as a ‘private visit’. The largest public gatherings will be at Croke Park for the Festival of Families event, part of the World Meeting of Families, and the Phoenix Park where he will celebrate Mass for half a million people – the biggest multitude to assemble in Ireland in almost 40 years.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) has responsibility for preparing the park and thousands of Church volunteers will take on stewarding duties for the massive congregation.

The OPW said “multiple food and drink stations” would be available at the venue. Huge numbers of people who attended the 1979 Papal Mass brought their own sandwiches and picnics and this time many may also decide to bring food with them.

A Church spokeswoman said: “We will have 7,000 general volunteers, 3,000 volunteers in the Papal Mass choir and another 2,000 plus assisting with the distribution of Holy Communion.”

A large proportion of the Mass-goers are expected to be elderly, along with considerable numbers of children. The OPW said designated rest zones would be positioned at regular intervals at the transport hubs, along the walking routes and at the gates. It also said portable seating would be allowed into the venue.

The World Meeting of Families team warned that people who attend can expect to walk from 4km to 7km in the approach to the venue and within the park itself.

People are also likely to have to stand for long periods.

With private traffic being prohibited from anywhere near the venue, people will have to walk for up to 75 minutes from their public transport hub to the gates of the Phoenix Park and then queue for up to an hour to get into the park.

It would also take another hour to walk from the gate to the designated corral area to reach it before 2.30pm when the Pope is expected to be driven among the crowds in his Popemobile before the Mass starts at 3pm.

When the Mass concludes at 4.45pm, it may take more than two hours to walk back to the public transport hubs, with queuing times adding another hour or two.

There will also be medical facilities, toilets, and baby changing facilities. Hundreds of nursing, first aid and medical personnel will be at the venue.

Dr Mary O’Riordan, specialist in public health medicine at the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre, said families should ensure children attending have been vaccinated against measles and other illnesses.

There was also a statistical chance when dealing with such vast numbers of death from natural causes and a temporary morgue facility has been planned.

At the 1979 Papal Mass, two babies were born and one person died.

Also, 7,000 gardai were on duty in the Phoenix Park in 1979 and thousands will once again be assigned to Papal Mass duties on August 26.

The OPW has installed temporary phone masts to ensure broadband connectivity for 1,200 media workers from around the world who will be covering one of the biggest events in modern Irish history.

People are being urged to use trains, buses, or trams to make their way to the Phoenix Park.

Gardai will be imposing tight restrictions on car travel.

There will be no car parks near the venue and motorists from outside the city are advised to use park-and-ride facilities at Leopardstown Racecourse (Luas), UCD Belfield (Dublin Bus), Maynooth University (train) and Fairyhouse Racecourse (train).

Dublin residents are advised to walk to their nearest transport hubs for free public transport to the event.

Dublin Bus has created seven dedicated transport hubs to take people within proximity of the park.

Almost 1,000 Dublin Bus vehicles will be available to get people to and from the venue.

The National Transport Authority plans to allow anyone with a ticket for the Papal Mass to travel free on public transport within the capital.

Advance booking for many transport services is vital. Translink will operate services from Northern Ireland.

From 6am until 11pm on Sunday, August 26, there will be multiple road closures, diversions and restrictions inside the M50. Those not going to the event are advised to allow extra time for all journeys.

For those going to Knock on Sunday morning, the centre of the village will be closed from 6pm the previous day.

Travellers to Knock are urged to use coach services. Car parking will be limited with long walks expected.

A bus shuttle from Claremorris train station will be free for those with tickets for the event.

For security reasons, it will not be possible to view the Pope arriving or departing from Knock Airport.

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