Pope compares Church sexual abuse, corruption to excrement, victims say

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

"The failure of ecclesiastical authorities-bishops, religious superiors, priests and others-adequately to address these repellent crimes has rightly given rise to outrage", the pope told Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and other dignitaries gathered in Dublin Castle on Saturday. "I myself share these sentiments".

"The Pope's visit to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families is historic and and will be welcomed by a great many people and I look forward to hearing what he has to say about a range of social issues".

The pope later held an hour and a half meeting with victims of abuse at the hands of clergy or in Church-run institutions, including Marie Collins, who was, at the age of 13, abused by a priest while being treated in a hospital in Dublin.

In a statement issued after their meeting, Higgins said he "raised with His Holiness the vast suffering and hurt caused by child sex abuse perpetrated by some within the Catholic Church", as well as the "anger which had been conveyed to him at what was perceived to be the impunity enjoyed by those who had the responsibility of bringing such abuses for action by the appropriate authorities and have not done so". The reviews concluded that thousands of children were raped or molested by priests or physically abused in church-run schools, and Irish bishops worked for years to hide those crimes.

Fintan O'Toole, a columnist for the Irish Times, said the Catholic Church in Ireland was "in some ways beyond repair".

More than 37,000 people - a lot of them young Catholics - signed up to attend a Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families that ends Sunday in Dublin, more than twice the number of a rally in Philadelphia three years ago.

And many faithful were hopeful.

Nearly half the population turned out to see him.

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But Ireland's tortured history of abuse has left its mark. They have overturned a constitutional ban on abortion and legalized divorce, contraception, previously banned homosexual acts and same-sex marriage.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who a year ago became Ireland'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. Large images of abuse victims and the hashtag #Stand4Truth - promoting a gathering of survivors and supporters elsewhere in Dublin during Sunday's mass - were projected onto some of the city's most recognized buildings on Friday night, including Dublin's Pro Cathedral.

Francis will be nearby, visiting the Marian shrine at Knock, but has no plans to visit the grave site.

But he said church and state both had a history of "sorrow and shame", citing the Magdalene laundries where women were confined and forced to work, the homes where unwed mothers were mistreated and the "stain" of clerical sex abuse.

The papal visit, the first to the Irish Republic for 39 years, coincides with the World Meeting of Families.

O'Malley had been expected to headline the panel in person, but he backed out at the last minute, citing a new inquiry he launched into his diocesan seminary amid sexual misconduct allegations - one of three big USA seminaries that have launched such investigations in recent weeks.

Numbers lining the streets or joining Francis in prayer are expected to be about a quarter of the 2.7 million who greeted John Paul II, marking how the rock that was once Irish Catholicism has eroded since child abuse cases came to light in the 1990s.

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