Pope Francis confessed shame in Ireland over Catholic clergy's "heinous crimes" against minors. Officials who responded inappropriately were "a cause of suffering and shame for the Catholic community".
Pope Francis must acknowledge the "grave scandal" caused by the abuse of minors by members of the church "charged with protecting and educating them," the pope said Saturday at the start of his two-day visit. At the same time, he says, the scandal raises awareness of the need to offer young people "prudent accompaniment and healthy values for their growth process".
"Failure" on the part of those in positions of responsibility
Francis made the remarks in a speech at Dublin Castle to political and community figures. The occasion for his trip is the ninth World Catholic Meeting of Families, which has been meeting in the Irish capital since Tuesday. The visit is overshadowed by a renewed debate over sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Francis acknowledged a "failure" by bishops, religious superiors and other leaders to respond adequately to offenses against minors. This has "rightly provoked indignation" and remains "a cause of suffering and shame for the Catholic community".
On the subject of reappraisal, he referred to his predecessor Benedict XVI. The latter's "frank and decisive intervention" continues to be an incentive to ie strict rules so that the mistakes of the past are not repeated, Francis said in his speech, which was not interrupted by applause.
"Family as the cement of society"
Francis alluded to earlier tensions between Ireland and the Vatican with a "passing cloud on the horizon". At the end of 2011, Dublin had closed its embassy to the Holy See, citing cost-cutting constraints. In the background was a controversy over the church's handling of sexual abuse. At the time, then-Prime Minister Enda Kenny accused the Vatican of sabotaging investigations. Temporarily, the Vatican also recalled its nuncio from Ireland.
Francis expressed concern about a "weakening of marriage and family life. Family is the cement of society; its welfare must be "promoted and protected by all appropriate means". In doing so, he mentioned the transmission of life and the education of new generations. He did not specifically address marriage as a cohabitation between a man and a woman. On the other hand, he criticized a "throwaway culture" that denies the unborn the right to life.
Referendum in May
Traditionally Catholic Ireland had voted in a referendum in May to allow legal abortions up to the twelfth week of pregnancy. Back in 1995, the Irish introduced the right to divorce and remarry against the wishes of the church. Homosexual couples have been able to marry since 2015. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, in office since June 2017, has a male partner.
This afternoon, Francis plans to speak at St.-Mary's Cathedral to pray for abuse victims. After a visit to a Capuchin-run shelter for the homeless, the Pope will attend a "Festival of Families" at Croke Park Stadium that evening. The meeting, which will include talks and chants, will be attended by about 80.000 participants expected.