POPE Francis arrived for a very busy two day Papal visit on August 25th. He was accompanied by Irish and Italian world journalists on his journey from Rome and was welcomed by the Tanaiste Simon Coveney and his family before he was escorted to attend a formal meeting with President Michael D Higgins at Aras an Uachtarain.
The highlight of the visit was the World Meeting of Families rally which took place in Croke Park. On this visit the children he met really enjoyed his presence and found him to be “gentle and kind” The Holy Father presented the children with gifts of rosary beads.
Many Irish church leaders and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims welcomed the Pope on his visit. He was also met by protesters who were noticeably angry at the way the church has dealt with issues of abuse, in particular multiple clerical sex abuse scandals. These scandals have damaged the trust Irish people have in the religious institution and the result has been a weakening in its influence on Irish society. The country has undergone tremendous social changes since John Paul II’s visit in 1979 when he was praised by the Irish people whose nation was influenced heavily by the Catholic Church.
The Pontiff had private meetings with abuse victims and wrote a 2,000-word letter to Catholics condemning the crimes of sexual abuse that were committed by priests as well as the numerous cover-ups that occurred afterwards. He also met families affected by homelessness at a religiously run center.
The Pope ended his visit with a Mass at Phoenix Park, attended by 130,000 people where the Pope asked for forgiveness and vowed to seek justice for the many child and vulnerable adult victims of church abuse over the decades.
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