The Pope has paid tribute to the dignity of the homeless as he kissed a baby at a day centre in Dublin.
The Capuchin religious order runs a lifeline service for those without shelter and in need of food and infant supplies.
Bella Rose, 11 months old, came face-to-face with the pontiff, her proud mother said, after he dismounted from his Popemobile and entered the centre through an unassuming back door from a narrow alleyway lined with well-wishers.
Candice Hartigan, 37, added: “He blessed all the children but she was the only one that got the kiss.”
The centre is non-judgmental, said Ms Hartigan.
They ask you nothing, they don’t ask you why you want something, they don’t ask you why you want to be fed,” she said. “They don’t ask you why you want baby food and nappies, they don’t ask you anything. You just put your name down and that is it, you are not asked anything else.
Addressing a gathering of the disadvantaged who use the centre, the Pope thanked them for trusting the Capuchin fathers.
“They help you without taking away your dignity,” he said. “That’s the face of Jesus Christ.”
Br Kevin Crowley is a co-director at the centre.
He said: “The message he gave was that we should show dignity and respect to every person in need, that was his real message.”
That respect extends to every person who uses the centre.
Br Kevin added: “It is very sad to think that little children have to go back to hostels in the evening time when they leave our centre.
“So his concerns were the dignity and respect of each and every poor person.
“Wherever he went, he always made sure the poor were his priority and I think that is one of the greatest gifts for us here today that the Pope came to visit the centre and showed his great love for the poor and for the homeless.”
He said not enough houses were available in Dublin and urged the Irish Government to “get its act together” and build more homes.
Fr Bryan Shortall, a Capuchin parish priest, recalled the leader of the world’s Catholics said some beautiful things to the friars and the homeless.
“The Pope was affirming Br Kevin and Fr Sean in what they do in the day centre, because they ask no questions,” said Fr Bryan. “They have an open door, people are welcome, people will not get the third degree or quizzed, they will be welcomed. It was a wonderful occasion, a wonderful experience and something I am never going to forget.”
Shortly after arriving at Dublin Airport for the first visit of a pope to Ireland in almost 40 years, Pope Francis arrived at Áras an Uachtaráin in a grey Skoda.
He was greeted by President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina.
A spokesman for President Higgins said that during the meeting, the President raised with the Pope the “immense suffering and hurt caused by child sex abuse perpetrated by some within the Catholic Church”.
In a statement issued after the meeting, the spokesman said President Higgins also told Pope Francis of 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 President welcomed the honest and forthright language that His Holiness used when addressing the issue in his Letter to the People of God,” said the spokesman.
He conveyed to Pope Francis the widely-held view that all would benefit from a set of actions that gave the necessary assurances to all citizens past, present, and future, of all faiths and none.
The two men also agreed on the importance of protecting vulnerable communities and individuals, and discussed issues including homelessness, health, education and nutrition.
The Pope completed his visit to Áras an Uachtaráin by planting a tree in the grounds of the property.
Francis planted an Irish oak tree on the lawn in front of the south portico. In doing so, he became the second Pope to plant a tree on the grounds of the residence.