By Aoife Moore
The Pope has asked for forgiveness for the crimes of Church figures in Ireland as he laid bare a litany of abuse and mistreatment meted out to victims.
Addressing a large crowd at an open-air Mass in Dublin as his historic visit drew to a close, Francis said the Church hierarchy had been guilty of cover-ups and failing to show compassion.
Praying for the strength to achieve justice for the victims, the Pope referred to his private meeting with eight abuse survivors on Saturday evening, explaining that he wanted to take up what they had said to him.“We ask forgiveness for the abuses in Ireland, abuses of power, of conscience, and sexual abuses perpetrated by members with roles of responsibility in the Church,” he said.
One of the high-profile victims of the cancer screening scandal was part of the offertory gifts proceedings.
Emma Mhic Mhathúna, now terminally ill, was incorrectly told that her smear test results were normal, up until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2016.
Ms Mhic Mhathúna has been involved in a campaign for accountability regarding the cervical screening issue.
She was accompanied by her children, Natasha, Séamus, Mario, Oisín, and Donnacha, and friends Mai Uí Bhruic and Tomás Ó Bruic.
Joining Ms Mhic Mhathúna in the offertory procession was Olive Foley, widow of former Ireland rugby star and Munster head coach Anthony ‘Axel’ Foley, and their children Dan and Tony.
Mrs Foley spoke tearfully at the World Meeting of Families (WMOF 2018) earlier in the week about losing her husband aged 42.
Also involved were victims who had lost loved ones in the Omagh bombing.
Relatives of Mary Grimes, her pregnant daughter Avril Monaghan, 30, and granddaughter Maura, one, were all killed when the bomb went off in Omagh in 1998.
Paul and Bridget Uzo, and their children Stephanie and Kelvin, representatives of the African community in the Archdiocese of Dublin, also took up gifts, alongside a family involved in the “All Are Welcome” Mass in Avila, in Donnybrook, Dublin.
The WMOF 2018 closing Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in Phoenix Park marked one of the biggest events in Europe this year.
Tens of thousands of people attended the Mass, including up to 20,000 overseas visitors.
Well-wishers waved flags, cheered and reached out to touch the Pontiff as he was driven in his Popemobile through throngs of the faithful, who braved torrential rain.
A total of 500,000 free tickets were snapped up for the event but the inclement weather undoubtedly put many off attending, with some reports putting the attendance as low as 130,000.
A 12-hour programme of music, reflections, video, and drama entertained pilgrims both as they arrived and made their way home from the Phoenix Park.
The prelude featured performers from Ireland, England, America, Germany, France, India, and Canada.
The Mass itself heard Fr Liam Lawton, liturgical composer and priest of the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, joined by a 3,000 strong Papal Mass choir.
The Mass concludes the Pontiff’s two-day visit to Ireland.