Pope vows to end sexual abuse 'at any cost'

Derry MEP to meet with Pope Francis during his visit to Ireland this weekend

Francis' trip to Ireland, the first by a pope in 39 years, has been overshadowed by renewed outrage over the Catholic Church's systemic failures to protect children, following revelations of sexual misconduct and cover-up in the USA church hierarchy, a growing crisis in Chile and the prosecutions of top clerics in Australia and France.

However, he failed to specifically mention the current scandal raging over a USA grand jury report documenting at least 1,000 cases of clerical pedophilia.

The failure of ecclesial authorities.to adequately address these repugnant crimes has rightly given rise to outrage, and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community. "There are one or two objectors, but I think they should keep their objections to themselves and get into the spirit of the thing", said Christina O'Riordan, a 76-year-old retired teacher.

He was speaking to a hall in Dublin Castle packed with hundreds of political and religious dignitaries along with foreign diplomats.

Irish Prime Leo Varadkar, who a year ago became the country'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. "It's a story all too tragically familiar here in Ireland".

"The church in Ireland, past and present, has played a role in the welfare of children that can not be obscured", the pope said. A gathering for victims of clergy abuse is planned for the same time as the papal Mass on Sunday.

Pope Francis is due to arrive by plane at Knock at about 09:45 local time and will spend about an hour there. "He didn't offer any concrete new plan of action, including over the vexed issue of accountability for the cover-up of abuse crimes".

"There is no doubt, however, of the great hurt that has been caused to so many by the horrendous child abuse and subsequent cover ups carried out by the Catholic church in Ireland and of the ongoing suffering of victims and survivors right across the island".

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Pope John Paul II visited the shrine on the last papal tour of Ireland in 1979.

A new generation has shed Ireland's traditional mores, electing Ireland's first gay prime minister and voting to legalise same-sex marriage and abortion - both once unthinkable.

Journalist Ursula Halligan organised the We Are Church Ireland event to call on the church to include LGBT Catholics in the church and to call on the church for accountability on clerical abuse and the inclusion of women in the church. In Dublin, survivors of sexual abuse and their supporters will gather at the Garden of Remembrance.

They described the 90-minute meeting as "cordial and polite".

"The pope did apologize to all of us for what happened in the homes", he said.

Since then, patterns of widespread abuse of children have been reported across the United States and Europe, in Chile and Australia, undercutting the Church's moral authority and taking a toll on its membership and coffers. The reviews concluded that thousands of children were raped and molested by priests or physically abused in church-run schools and bishops worked for years to hide those crimes.

One of the victims of Fr Tony Walsh, a priest and serial abuser who assaulted hundreds of children over almost two decades, was also present but preferred to remain anonymous.

On the first papal visit to the country in nearly four decades, Francis used a speech at a state event that was also attended by some abuse survivors to acknowledge that it was to the Church's shame it had not addressed these "repugnant crimes".

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