Pope begins historic Ireland visit

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Pope Francis has arrived in the Republic of Ireland’s first papal visit for almost 40 years.

The Pope is expected to meet some victims of clerical sex abuse later on Saturday.

In a letter to the world’s 1.2bn Roman Catholics, the Pope this week condemned the “atrocities” of child abuse and clerical cover-ups.

The visit coincides with the World Meeting of Families – a global Catholic gathering held every three years.

It will end with a Mass for 500,000 people at Phoenix Park on Sunday.

The Pope was presented with flowers and vestments by children at the airport.

He then travelled to Áras an Uachtaráin, the Irish president’s residence, where he has been welcomed by President Michael D Higgins, his wife Sabina and a military guard of honour.

The Ireland that he is visiting is a different country to that which greeted Pope John Paul II in 1979.

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.

Image captionThe older population is more likely to describe themselves as Catholic

The country voted for constitutional change on gay marriage in 2015 and voted overwhelmingly to overturn its strict abortion law in May.

The Irish Catholic Church has been engulfed in scandal with the uncovering of widespread clerical sexual abuse of children and cover-ups.

Child sex abuse scandals continue to embroil the Church around the globe.

On Friday, Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister (taoiseach), said he hoped Pope Francis’s visit would mark the beginning of a new chapter in Ireland’s relationship with the Church.

“In the past the Catholic Church had too much of a dominant place in our society,” he said

“It still has a place in our society, but not one that determines public policy or determines our laws.”

The taoiseach described the papal visit as one of the biggest events in Ireland in the past 40 years, adding it was also a chance for the Pope to speak directly to those harmed by crimes that took place in Church-run institutions.

The Vatican said the meeting with sex-abuse survivors would not be announced until after it was over, and that it would be up to victims if they wanted to speak afterwards.

On Saturday evening, the Pope will attend the Festival of Families concert in Dublin’s Croke Park stadium.

More than 70,000 people are expected to take part, with the world-renowned tenor Andrea Bocelli due to perform.

Other acts on the bill include Nathan Carter, Daniel O’Donnell, Moya Brennan, the Begley Family and the Priests.

The pontiff will travel to County Mayo on Sunday morning for a visit to Knock Shrine.

He will return to Dublin for an afternoon Mass in front of an estimated 500,000 people in Phoenix Park, to close the World Meeting of Families.


Source: BBC

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