Pope Francis on Saturday vowed to end the ‘repugnant’ sexual exploitation of children by Catholic clergy. He made a highly-charged visit to once devout Ireland, where years of reported abuse have driven many Irish away from the Church.
On the first papal visit to Ireland in almost four decades, Francis said in a speech at a state event that was also attended by some abuse survivors that it was to the Church’s shame it had not addressed these “crimes” and he said he was signalling a greater commitment to eliminating this “scourge”.
More than three-quarters of Ireland’s population flocked to see Pope John Paul II in 1979 when divorce and contraception were illegal, while Pope Francis was greeted by far smaller numbers.
Years of sexual abuse scandals have shattered the credibility of the Church as a moral leader. In the past three years, Irish voters have approved abortion and gay marriage in referendums, defying its wishes.
However, flag-waving supporters still gathered from five or six deep along many parts of Francis’s route, although in other parts he greeted crowds from his popemobile by a more sparse turnout.
“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,” Francis said at the state event.
“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.”
In unprepared remarks, Francis added a reference to a letter he addressed last Monday to all the world’s Catholics on the abuse crisis, saying he wanted it to signal “a greater commitment to eliminating this scourge in the Church, at any cost”.
One of the abuse survivors present, Colm O’Gorman, called the pope’s remarks a staggering effort at deflection that failed to acknowledge what O’Gorman said was the Vatican’s role in covering up the crimes. (With inputs from agencies)
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