The prospect of an official visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Ireland has moved a step closer after it emerged that he has been officially invited to visit Ireland in two years' time.

The invitation, issued by the Irish Bishops Conference late last year, is believed to have been acknowledged by the Vatican but no decision has yet been made on whether he will make the trip.

The invitation to visit has been timed to coincide with the International Eucharistic Congress, which is due to be held in Dublin in 2012.