POPE FRANCIS faces growing demands from individuals and organisations, including the former President Mary McAleese and Amnesty International, to acknowledge publicly the victims of child abuse by Roman Catholic clergy, before his visit to Ireland later this month.
The Pope, who is travelling to Dublin for the World Meeting of Families on 25 and 26 August, will spend only two days in Ireland, and is not expected to visit Northern Ireland.
He is scheduled to hold a rally at Croke Park, Dublin; visit the Marian shrine at Knock, Co. Mayo; and say a papal mass in Phoenix Park, the site of a similar Mass said by St John Paul II in 1979.
Pope Francis is also understood to be paying a visit to the Capuchin centre in Dublin which, under Brother Kevin Crowley, feeds hundreds of the city’s poor daily.
There are conflicting reports on whether the Pope will meet victims of clerical abuse. The RC Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, expressed hopes that such a meeting would happen; but Ireland’s Executive Director of Amnesty International, Colm O’Gorman, himself a victim, has said that nothing short of the Pope, acknowledging the truth of Ireland’s abuse scandals at the hands of churchmen and women, and the Vatican’s cover-up of the same scandals, would suffice.
PAMembers of the National Transport Authority and the police at a briefing last month about public safety during the Pope’s visit to Ireland next month
Mr O’Gorman rejected the idea of a “set piece” during which the Pope would meet, for a short time, a hand-picked selection of abuse survivors. “No pope — including this pope — has ever acknowledged the simple proven fact that the Vatican orchestrated and facilitated the cover-up of the rape and abuse of hundreds of thousands of children on a global level,” Mr O’Gorman said.
“Yet everywhere a pope goes we get this breathless adoration. He hasn’t said sorry. A simple acknowledgement of the truth has to be made if we are to believe this institution has changed.”
He went on to say that an alternative event would take place in the city’s Garden of Remembrance, on 26 August, to coincide with the papal event, for those who had suffered abuse by the RC Church, and those who wished to stand in solidarity with them.
Mrs McAleese said: “I think time has to be found somewhere, because these are people who have been overlooked, neglected.”
She said that the Pope had to meet survivors and explain what he planned to do to ensure that another generation does not have to bear “this burden of hurt”.
The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, who is also gay, said that he would tell the Pope that the people of Ireland recognised heterosexual and homosexual couples and families as equal, while also bringing up the concerns of the Irish people regarding the Church’s “legacy of the past”.
He told a press briefing: “If the opportunity arises, I will certainly want to express to him the real concerns Irish people have in relation to the legacy of the past, in relation to issues such as the Church’s involvement in Magdalene laundries, mother-and-baby homes, and sexual and physical abuse.”