Stephen Farry stated: “This is an important visit not only for Catholics in Britain and Ireland, but for society as a whole. A successful visit would be a vindication of the values of religious freedom, respect for diversity in faith matters, and for a shared and pluralist society.
“Of course there are challenges for the Catholic Church to better reflect the evolving views of its congregations and wider society, and in particular to be much more robust in addressing the legacy of abuse.
“Fundamentally, it must be recognised the Catholic denomination has many adherents through these islands, including in Northern Ireland. It is right that proper recognition is given to this through such visits. It is most unfortunate that there are those who seem intent in protesting against this visit or otherwise disrespecting it. Freedom of religion is one of the most fundamental human rights in the world. It is ironic that it is some of those who are most vocal in claiming their own rights to practice freedom of religion are the most active in protesting the exercise of rights by others.
“Hopefully, there can be a future papal visit to Ireland in the future, potentially including Northern Ireland.”