Pope Ireland visit: Pontiff met by protests over sex abuse scandals as he arrives in Dublin

'The Pope now needs to stand up to the plate and do something for the survivors. We need redress, we need the church held to account'

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Saturday 25 August 2018 14:59
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Pope arrives in Ireland for historic two-day visit

The Pope's visit to Ireland has sparked a number of protests in the country over the church's handling of multiple clerical abuse scandals.

The country has undergone seismic social changes 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.

Pope Francis is expected to use his trip to confront the abuse scandals in the church and is planning to meet a number of abuse victims in a private meeting during his trip.

But while he will receive a warm reception from the thousands of pilgrims who have travelled to be part of the occasion, he has also sparked protests among people who are angry at how the church dealt with the various scandals.

One took place near Dublin Castle shortly after the Pontiff arrived in the city on Saturday morning. It was organised by Margaret McGuckin, a survivor of historic child abuse who spent years in the Nazareth House children's home.

Ms McGuckin said it was a symbolic gesture to the Pope and the church that victims have not gone away.

“The Pope now needs to stand up to the plate and do something for the survivors. We need redress, we need the church held to account," she said.

“We want the bishops, Christian Brothers, nuns and anyone else who was involved in the abuse of children or covering up the abuse of children brought before the courts."

Some are also abstaining from attending events to see the Pontiff in a bid to leave seats empty as a form of silent and peaceful protest as a disavowal to the Catholic Church’s “stranglehold” on culture and government in Ireland as the Pontiff carries out a whistle-stop tour.

It comes after the Pontiff wrote a 2,000-word letter to Catholics in which he condemned the crime of sexual abuse by priests and subsequent cover-ups, and demanded accountability in response to fresh revelations in the US of decades of misconduct by clerics.

Senior Irish clerics and other dignitaries gathered on the apron of the runway to greet the Pope clapped as his flight landed shortly after 10am on Saturday. Irish and Vatican flags were flown from the cockpit windows as the aircraft taxied toward its stand.

Pope Francis emerged from the plane soon after, walking down the steps to be greeted on a red carpet by Ireland's deputy premier and foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney, his wife Ruth and their three daughters.

Mr Coveney acknowledged that many people had mixed feelings about the visit, saying: “I think it's been difficult for many people, for victims, for Catholics and many of the clergy.

“But I hope and expect that this weekend will be a very powerful moment. He has a personality that can reach out to Irish people.”

On Friday, the Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar said he hoped Pope Francis's visit would mark the beginning of a new chapter in Ireland's relationship with the Church.

Archbishop Eamon Martin, the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, meanwhile said the sex abuse issue would not disappear because of Francis' visit to Ireland this weekend “and nor should it”.

He told Sky News: “If you speak to survivors, they're carrying a trauma and they will carry it with them for the rest of their lives. We have no right to think that we can leave it behind us.”

Around 100,000 people are expected to line the streets of Dublin city centre on Saturday afternoon as the Pope passes through in his famous Pope Mobile.

On Sunday, he will fly west to Co Mayo where he will follow in the footsteps of John Paul II and take part in a religious service at a Holy shrine in Knock.

He will then return to Dublin for the closing centrepiece of the WMOF event - an outdoor Mass in front of an expected congregation of half a million people.

With Ireland in the midst of a high-profile homelessness problem, the Pope will also meet a number of impacted families at a centre run by a religious order.

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