Ireland will host Catholic world family meeting in 2018

Dublin will host the next World Meeting of Families in 2018.

The announcement came as Pope Francis wrapped up this year’s gathering in Philadelphia, concluding a historic nine-day trip to Cuba and the U.S. It’s too soon to say whether the pontiff, who turns 79 in December, will go to Ireland.

Held every three years and sponsored by the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for the Family, the event is described as “the world’s largest Catholic gathering of families.”

The Irish Catholic church as been rocked over the last decade by clergy sex abuse and Magdalene laundry scandals. A gay marriage referendum won overwhelming approval in May, and there is talk of liberalizing the country’s abortion laws, both against the wishes of the church.

Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin welcomed the announcement that the WMF would take place in Ireland. “Despite many challenges, the family remains at the heart of faith and of so much that we hold important in this country,” he  told The Irish Times.

Ireland hosted the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in 2012. Pope John Paul II was the last pontiff to visit Ireland, in September 1979.