DUBLIN-Pope Francis voiced "pain and shame" over the abuse of children by Catholic priests, addressing the church's global abuse scandal in his first speech in Ireland, one of the countries hit hardest by it. The visit was originally meant to celebrate Catholic families but has been overshadowed by the renewed abuse crisis.
Francis said: "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".
"I myself share those sentiments". But while Benedict is credited with cracking down on abusers, he never acknowledged the Vatican's role in fuelling a culture of coverup or sanctioned bishops for failing to protect their flocks from predator priests.
They included Dublin's Pro Cathedral, where on Saturday Francis prayed before a candle commemorating abuse victims that was first lit in 2011. But neither his words nor the meeting with victims is likely to assuage demands for heads to roll over the abuse scandal.
Collins, who previous year resigned from a Vatican commission for child protection over its inaction, told reporters that the pope's speech was "disappointing" and "nothing new". No one from the public was at the airport or the roads nearby when Francis arrived Saturday and the streets near a church-run homeless shelter that Francis visited were practically empty despite barricades created to hold back crowds.
The Amnesty director slammed the speech that he claimed, deflected responsibility for clerical sex abuses.
In May 2009, Ireland's government-mandated Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse released a 2,600-page investigative report that found sexual abuse had occurred for decades in many Catholic-run institutions, including schools and orphanages, and that it was "particularly endemic" in boys' facilities.
The Pope has met with victims before in Philadelphia, Chile and at the Vatican.
And many faithful were hopeful.
The pontiff will travel to County Mayo on Sunday morning for a visit to Knock Shrine, before returning to Dublin to close the World Meeting of Families at an afternoon Mass in front of an estimated 500,000 people in Phoenix Park. While there will be crowds, they're expected to be well down on 39 years ago, as scandal after scandal has taken its toll on the Church's moral authority.
"The last religious census in 2016 suggested that more than 70 percent of Ireland identified itself as Catholic, while 40 percent go to church on a regular basis".
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar concurred, saying the church stepped in to care for Irish children when the state did not.
"I acknowledge that Pope Francis will meet with victims and survivors of abuse and hears their stories at first hand and that is an important step but it must also be followed up with action".
He referred to an investigation in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania that found that more than 1,000 identifiable minors had been abused by 300 priests.
"I can not fail to acknowledge the grave scandal caused in Ireland by the abuse of young people by members of the church charged with the responsibility of their protection and education", he said, as translated by RTE News. Irish voters in recent years have turned their backs on core Catholic teachings.
Since the Polish pope's visit, there have been huge changes in public attitudes to social issues including abortion, contraception, divorce and same-sex marriage.
Varadkar welcomed the Pope to Ireland on behalf of the Irish people and began by speaking about the history of the Catholic church in Ireland and the part the church played in Ireland's education system and the foundation of the state.
RTÉ News noted that that the meeting raised the situation faced by survivors of Mother and Baby homes and of forced and illegal adoption in Ireland in 2018.
The Irish government in 2015 launched a commission to investigate 18 such homes - the last of which closed in 1996 - after revelations that up to 800 infants may have died over several decades at one run by Catholic nuns in Tuam.
AP video journalist Luigi Navarra contributed.