Pope Francis makes historic visit to Ireland

Fredrick Soto
August 26, 2018

Colm O'Gorman, who is leading a solidarity rally on Sunday in Dublin for abuse victims, said Francis' remarks about sharing the shame felt by Catholics were an "insult to faithful Catholics, who have no reason to feel shame because of the crimes of the Vatican and the institutional church".

So the president of Ireland, the prime minister of Ireland, and the survivors of abuse in Ireland were hoping for more than tough talk. But he provided no new indications that he would take forceful action to hold bishops accountable for protecting children or to sanction them when they fall short. "I myself share those sentiments", the Pope said.

Francis began the two-day trip by visiting Irish President Michael D. Higgins' who said he raised with the pope the huge suffering caused by child sex abuse and anger which had been conveyed to him at what was perceived to be the impunity enjoyed by those responsible.

On the first papal visit to the country in nearly four decades, Francis used a speech at a state event that was also attended by some abuse survivors to acknowledge that it was to the Church's shame it had not addressed these "repugnant crimes" and said he sought a greater commitment to eliminating this "scourge".

Francis' first speech in Ireland on Saturday is an address to Irish government officials and civil society, where he will likely refer to the scandal.

Pope Francis meets with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle, Ireland, on August 25, 2018. Thirty years ago, the Rev Ian Paisley, the DUP's founder, declared Pope John Paul II the anti-Christ. The reviews concluded that thousands of children were raped or molested by priests or physically abused in church-run schools - and Irish bishops worked for years to hide those crimes.

Pope Francis landed in Dublin on Saturday, his visit eclipsed by the latest sex abuse scandal that touched at least a thousand people in Pennsylvania and opened wounds in Ireland.

Varadkar acknowledged the Catholic Church had provided generations of Catholics with education and health care when the Irish government did not.

He cited Francis' own call for "zero tolerance" of abuse and said: "We must now ensure that from words flow actions".

The Supreme Pontiff met privately for 90 minutes with eight survivors of abuse at the hands of the Catholic Church. "It's a story all too tragically familiar here in Ireland". Old laws banning contraception and divorce have been overturned, and more recently, two referendums led to the approval of same-sex marriage and the end of a ban on abortion. Large images of abuse victims and the hashtag #Stand4Truth - promoting a gathering of survivors and supporters elsewhere in Dublin during Sunday's mass - were projected onto some of the city's most recognized buildings on Friday night, including Dublin's Pro Cathedral.

RTÉ News noted that that the meeting raised the situation faced by survivors of Mother and Baby homes and of forced and illegal adoption in Ireland in 2018. The location is Tuam, site of a mass grave in a sewage area of hundreds of babies who died over the years at a church-run home.

Pope Francis will begin the second day of his historic trip to the Republic of Ireland at the Knock Marian shrine in County Mayo. They said Francis described the corruption and coverup in the church as "caca" - translated by the Vatican translator for the English speakers as "filth as one sees in the toilet".

In the coming 36 hours, the Pope will witness a country that has undergone seismic social changes in the four decades since the last papal visit in 1979, when John Paul II was lauded by a nation shaped by its relationship with an all-powerful Catholic Church. About half as many are expected Sunday for Francis.

AP video journalist Luigi Navarra contributed.

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