Papal Visit

Irish Taoiseach tells Pope Francis ‘We love you Holy Father, but …’

Two women who urged Pope Francis to intervene on child abuse and gay rights were former president Mary McAleese, bottom right, and, above, feminist Katherine Zappone, the Irish Minister for Children. The other pictures are of Pope Francis with Leo Varadakar and the Holy Father with President and Mrs Michael D. Higgins. Pictures by Bill Heaney from Sky TV News.

By Bill Heaney

It was a humble Pope Francis who arrived at Dublin Airport on Shepherd 1 this morning at 10.20am to face the solemn music over the clerical child abuse scandal which has engulfed the Catholic Church.

The Pope met dignitaries including Simon Coveney, the deputy prime minister and his family, who presented him with flowers in the Papal colours before he was driven off in a modest Skoda to the residence of Michael D Higgins in the Phoenix Park.

One of the most important people he met there was Ireland’s Minister for Children, an educator, entrepreneur, feminist, Katherine Zappone, who Minister for Children and Independent TD for Dublin South West., who has been at the centre of the clerical child abuse debate – and the push for LGBT rights in what was once the moist conservative Catholic country in Europe.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar did not shirk from raising the vexed issue of clerical child abuse, of Magdalen laundries, of industrial schools, illegal adoptions and the dark corners where the mentally ill learning disabled were hidden away by Church institutions.

The Irish prime minister had much to say too about the good work the Church had done over the years at home and abroad in the Missions. The world had changed however and although the Church would no longer be at the centre of Irish society, it could still in the 21st century be a force for good.

Pope Francis took the Taoiseach’s criticisms on the papal chin and turned on their heads predictions in Rome on Friday night that he has no plans to announce any new measures by the Vatican to address the clerical child sexual abuse issue on his visit to Ireland.

It took a long time coming, but it was there. The apology, acceptance and expression of regret that what had happened to the women and children of Ireland and elsewhere where the Irish Church held influence.

Patsy McGarry, religion correspondent of the Irish Times, reported this morning that more than 600,000 people are expected to turn out in Dublin and Knock see Pope Francis during his visit to Ireland, the first by a pontiff in 39 years.

The 266th leader of the Catholic Church landed on Irish soil for his first time since 1980 when, as the young priest Fr Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he studied English for three months with the Jesuit community at Milltown Park in Dublin.

He chose however to speak in his native tongue for the address to the great and the good in Dublin Castle.

The 81-year-old Argentine’s packed itinerary during his 36-hour visit began with a stop at Áras an Uachtaráin where he met President Michael D Higgins.

He later met church leaders, members of the Government, Northern Ireland political leaders and members of the judiciary in Dublin Castle.

He was due to travel through Dublin city centre in the “popemobile” on his way to a private visit at the Capuchin Day Centre for homeless families near Smithfield.

However, that may not now happen and the pope may decide to stick with the Skoda, more in keeping with the low key nature of his visit so far.

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This evening, the pope will make a speech at the Festival of Families concert at Croke Park. Tomorrow (Sunday), he will fly to the Knock Shrine in Co Mayo and then return to Dublin for a public Mass in the Phoenix Park before his departure for Rome at 6.45pm.

On the eve of the pontiff’s arrival, prominent abuse survivor Marie Collins, pictured left, who resigned from the pope’s child protection panel last year over the Vatican’s failure to act, described a Church gripped by denial and preoccupied with self-protection when she appeared at the World Meeting of Families, the Church’s once-every-three-year convention that is bringing Francis to Ireland.

There was a fear of a “domino effect” within the Church about how many bishops could be removed if senior clerics were held accountable for the cover-up of abuse, she told the Dublin conference.  “It shouldn’t matter; every rotten apple should be got rid of and it should happen now,” she said.

Child abuse is repugnant and ‘a source of pain and shame,’ Francis says

Pope Francis has recognised how the Church’s failure to address the “repugnant crimes” of clerical sexual abuse “remains a source of pain and shame” for Irish Catholics.

Speaking at Dublin Castle, the pontiff in addressing the scandal that has damaged the Church’s standing since the last visit of a pope almost four decades ago, said he was “very conscious” of the circumstances of “our most vulnerable brothers and sisters.”

After a no punches pulled speech by the Taoiseach, the pope specifically made reference to “women who in the past have endured particularly difficult situations” – a veiled reference to the treatment of Irish women in the Magdalene Laundries and other Church-run institutions.

“With regard to the most vulnerable, I cannot fail to acknowledge the grave scandal caused in Ireland by the abuse of young people by members of the Church charged with responsibility for their protection and education,” the Pope said.

“The failure of ecclesiastical authorities – bishops, religious superiors, priests and others – adequately to address these repugnant crimes has rightly given rise to outrage and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community. I myself share these sentiments.”

While recognising the Church’s failures in the clerical abuse scandal, the Pope noted too that the Church had “past and present, played a role in promoting the welfare of children that cannot be obscured.”

“It is my hope that the gravity of the abuse scandals, which have cast light on the failings of many, will serve to emphasise the importance of the protection of minors and vulnerable adults on the part of society as a whole,” he said.

“In this regard, all of us are aware of how urgent it is to provide our young people with wise guidance and sound values in their journey to maturity.”

Three months after Ireland voted to legalise abortion, Pope Francis condemned “a materialistic ‘throwaway culture’” questioning whether it has made people “increasingly indifferent to the poor and to the most defenceless members of our human family, including the unborn, deprived of the very right to life.”

Visiting Ireland to conclude the World Meeting of Families, Francis spoke about the importance of recovering “the sense of being a true family of peoples” in every instance of political and social life.

Varadkar lays it on the line in Pope’s presence – centre no more

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From the Guardian newspaper

The Irish prime minister has called for a new relationship between church and state in which religion is no longer at the centre of society, as the pope made his first visit to Ireland this weekend.

In a blistering speech focusing on the failings of the church, delivered in the presence of Pope Francis, Leo Varadkar, the taoiseach, said a new covenant for the 21st century was needed that reflected the modern country Ireland had become and learned from “our shared mistakes”.

Varadkar’s speech focused on the “dark aspects” of the Ireland’s history. “The failures of both church and state, and wider society, created a bitter and broken heritage for so many, leaving a legacy of pain and suffering. It is a history of sorrow and shame,” he said.

Child sexual abuse, the Magdalene Laundries, mother and baby homes and illegal adoptions were “stains on our state, our society and also the Catholic church. People kept in dark corners behind closed doors, cries for help that went unheard.”

The taoiseach also referred to the recent grand jury report on clerical abuse in Pennsylvania, talking of “brutal crimes perpetrated by people within the Catholic church, and then obscured to protect the institution at the expense of innocent victims”.

“It is a story all too tragically familiar here in Ireland,” he said.

He also said there was “much to be done to bring about justice and truth and healing for victims and survivors … We must now ensure that from words flow actions.”

The changes meant the time had come “for us to build a new, more mature relationship between church and state in Ireland – a new covenant for the 21st century”.

It would be one “in which religion is no longer at the centre of our society, but in which it still has an important place”, he said.

Pope Francis’s brief visit to Ireland will be dominated by demands for action at the highest levels of the church to deal with the systemic cover-up of abuse by priests and others.

Although he received a rapturous welcome from thousands of pilgrims who have travelled to Ireland for the Catholic church’s World Meeting of Families, there are also protests planned over the church’s handling of clerical abuse scandals.

As Francis celebrates mass with 500,000 people at Phoenix Park on Sunday, survivors of sexual abuse and their supporters will hold a vigil at Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance.

Another vigil will be held at the site of a mass grave containing the remains of infants discovered last year at a Catholic mother-and-baby home in Tuam, where almost 800 children died.

The Vatican has confirmed that Francis will hold a private meeting with survivors of clerical sexual abuse, but no details will be disclosed in advance.

Maeve Lewis of the survivors’ organisation One in Four said the pope’s speech at Dublin Castle was a missed opportunity to set out concrete steps to deal with child sex crimes in the Catholic church.

“Until recently the Vatican encouraged local bishops to deal discreetly with allegations, placing other children at risk,” she said.

“No pope has ever accepted responsibility for the Vatican’s role in the cover-ups. Acknowledgement of this complicity would have been a good start in Dublin Castle today.

“Survivors are weary of apologies that are not followed up with real action.”

As Francis was driven through the centre of Dublinon Saturday afternoon, there was a generational divide in attitudes.

Louise Clifford, 24, a designer from Limerick who now lives in the capital, said: “If this was 20 years ago this street would be full, but there are about 20 people and the pope is about to drive by.”

She said she and her friends were “not really religious” but described herself as a “cultural Catholic”. “It’s the norm in Ireland,” she said.

Bernard Connelly, 82, from Rimnheh on the outskirts of Dublin, was waiting eagerly. “I’ve seen five popes in my lifetime and I think Pope Francis is fantastic. He tells it like it is.

“This abuse scandal has gone on for years and years. There is no getting away from it. Please God it will be fixed soon. Let’s hope Pope Francis is the man to do it.”

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