Pope confirms 2018 visit to Ireland, prime minister says

Pope Francis has confirmed plans to make a 2018 trip to Ireland, a Roman Catholic country devastated by the clerical sex abuse scandal, where same-sex marriages are legal and a constitutional ban on abortion is being questioned.

Francis confirmed the plans during a meeting Monday with visiting Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny.

Kenny told reporters: "The pope has confirmed that he is coming to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families."

The prime minister says talks are under way about whether Francis would visit Northern Ireland, which St. John Paul II avoided as pope in 1979 on security grounds.

Kenny harshly criticized the Vatican in 2011 for its "dysfunction" in responding to the abuse scandal. Ireland temporarily closed its embassy to the Vatican, but it reopened in 2014.