Pope arrives in Ireland for first visit in 40 years

Radio star Joe Duffy

Radio star Joe Duffy

Earlier this week, the Pope wrote a 2,000-word letter to Catholics in which he condemned the crime of sexual abuse by priests and subsequent cover-ups. A gathering for victims of clergy abuse is planned for the same time as the papal Mass on Sunday.

Pope Francis has been welcomed to Dublin by pro-LGBT demonstrators during his visit to Ireland.

His visit is the first by a pope to Ireland in 40 years and is aimed at showing the church understands the problems of ordinary Catholic families.

His refusal to do so during a 2016 trip to Mexico riled some victims, given the country is home to the founder of the Legion of Christ, the Reverend Marcial Maciel, perhaps the most notorious paedophile of the 20th century Catholic Church.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who previous year became Ireland's first gay leader, told Francis that the wounds of clerical child abuse that stained the Irish state were still open and there was much to be done to bring about justice and healing for victims.

"The failure of ecclesiastical authorities - bishops, religious superiors, priests and others - to adequately 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".

In appealing to the pope, Varadkar cited a recent grand jury report from the USA state of Pennsylvania which found 300 priests had abused more than 1,000 children over 70 years.

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"People kept in dark corners, behind closed doors, cries for help that went unheard".

"Holy Father, we ask that you use your office and influence to ensure this is done here in Ireland and also around the world".

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

Mr Varadkar said the "heartbreaking stories" of "unspeakable crimes", perpetrated by religious officials and then obscured to protect the institutions, was a story "all too tragically familiar" to people in Ireland.

Pope Francis will meet privately with victims of clerical sexual abuse during his visit to Ireland this weekend, the Vatican said on Tuesday.

"He could have talked to the people of Ireland beyond those who might identify as faithful Catholics; he could have talked to us all in a way that was blunt, that was clear, that was frank, that was human and that was accessible", he finished.

He was met on the red carpet by deputy head of government Simon Coveney and his children, who presented him with a bouquet of white and yellow roses with Irish foliage.

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Tomorrow, he will fly to Knock shrine, before saying Mass in front of approximately 500,000 people in the Phoenix Park on Sunday afternoon.

After a visit to the residence of Michael D Higgins, the president, the Pope attended a reception in Dublin Castle that was attended by various members of the government and clergy.

The pope arrived on Saturday to begin his two-day visit to Ireland - the first papal trip in 39 years - which has been beset by controversy, with abuse survivors planning protests to coincide with the papal Mass Sunday.

Over the last few years, a majority of Irish voters have approved measures contrary to Catholic teaching, legalizing same-sex marriage and overturning a constitutional ban on abortion.

The event will involve a short private meeting between Ireland's leader Leo Varadkar and the Pope before both men make a 10-minute speech.

In the evening, he will join pilgrims at a musical festival in the landmark Croke Park Gaelic Athletic Association stadium.

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