Pope Francis 'was genuinely shocked' during private meeting with clerical sex abuse victims

Pope Francis 'was genuinely shocked' during private meeting with clerical sex abuse victims

The Pope has met with victims of church abuse and mistreatment in Ireland after expressing pain and shame over failures to tackle the scandals.

The 90-minute private encounter with eight survivors at the Papal Nuncio’s residence in Dublin came hours after the Pope acknowledged that Irish people had a right to be outraged by the church’s response to the crimes.

On the first day of his historic visit to Ireland, the pontiff also prayed for all victims of clerical sex abuse.

Among the eight survivors present was Marie Collins, who was abused by a priest as a child.

Abuse survivors Reverend Patrick McCafferty, Reverend Joe McDonald, councillor Damien O'Farrell and Bernadette Fahy were also present at this evening's meeting.

As were Paul Jude Redmond and Clodagh Malone, who were both born in mother and baby homes.

Pope Francis was presented with a copy of Mr Redmond's book, The Adoption Machine, which contains details of the thousands of deaths and horrors of the Homes.

Mr Redmond said: "We feel hopeful there will be more movement from the church on the issue of Mother and Baby homes.

"The Pope was genuinely shocked to hear about the 6000 babies who died and the 3000 banished babies and the vaccine trials and lifted his hands to his head in shock."

Ms Malone said: "Very powerful meeting. He listened with a genuine interest. And he asked many questions about Mother and Baby homes."

The Pope’s decision to address the dark legacy of abuse in a speech in Dublin Castle drew praise in some quarters, but others criticised Francis for not saying enough or offering a public apology.

With the reverberations of a litany of clerical sex crimes casting a shadow over the first papal visit to Ireland in almost 40 years, Francis acknowledged the gravity of what had happened.

“With regard to the most vulnerable, I cannot fail to acknowledge the grave scandal caused in Ireland by the abuse of young people by members of the church charged with responsibility for their protection and education,” he said.

“The failure of ecclesiastical authorities – bishops, religious superiors, priests and others – adequately to address these repellent crimes has rightly given rise to outrage and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community.

“I myself share those sentiments.”

Later in the day, Francis sat in prayerful contemplation inside Dublin's Pro-Cathedral at a candle perpetually lit for those abused.

On a full day of engagements in the capital, the Pope also visited homeless people who receive support from a centre run by the Capuchin Fathers’ religious order.

In his Dublin Castle speech, the pontiff also expressed hope that remaining obstacles to reconciliation in Northern Ireland could be overcome.

- Press Association

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