In Ireland, Pope Francis ashamed of church’s failure to address abuse

During a visit to Ireland, Pope Francis spoke Saturday about the Catholic Church’s handlings of clerical abuse — calling it a “grave scandal.”

A protestor holds up a banner while Pope Francis is driven in his Pope mobile through the streets of Dublin, Ireland, Saturday. Photo by Will Oliver/EPA-EFE
A protestor holds up a banner while Pope Francis is driven in his Pope mobile through the streets of Dublin, Ireland, Saturday. Photo by Will Oliver/EPA-EFE

“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 told political leaders and dignitaries at Dublin Castle.

“The failure of ecclesiastical authorities — bishops, religious superiors, priests and others — adequately to address these repellent crimes has rightly given rise to outrage, and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community,” he said.

“I myself share those sentiments.”

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Francis added that he was committed to “eliminating this scourge in the church, at any cost.”

The Pope is expected to meet privately with sex abuse survivors later Saturday.

Francis’ remarks come after Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar urged him to take action against the church’s failures related to addressing those clergy who were involved in and concealed child abuse.

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Varadkar urged the Pope to speak out in the wake of a recent grand jury report in Pennsylvania that detailed decades of sexual assault accusations against priests and cover-ups across six decades.

“In recent weeks, we have all listened to heart-breaking stories from Pennsylvania of brutal crimes perpetrated by people within the Catholic Church, and then obscured to protect the institution at the expense of innocent victims,” he said. “It is a story all too tragically familiar here in Ireland.”

Meanwhile, some abuse survivors in Ireland are skeptical things will change.

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“What I would like to see when the Pope comes to Ireland, is to come out, not make these sort of ‘we’re sorry,’ type of statements, but to tell us what is he going to do — and do it,” Marie Collins, who was assaulted by a priest when she was 13, told CNN.

The papal visit is the first to Ireland in 39 years and coincides with the World Meeting of Families, which is held every three years.

The Pope’s visit will end on Sunday with a Mass for 500,000 people at Phoenix Park.

BySommer Brokaw