‘Excited’ Pope Francis hopes Irish visit leads to reconciliation

Vatican confirms pontiff will meet clerical sexual abuse survivors during time in State

Pope Francis has said he is excited to come to Ireland this week and hopes the visit can lead to unity and reconciliation among Christians across the country.

In a video message released ahead of his arrival on Saturday, the pope says: “Although the specific reason for my visit to Ireland is the World Meeting of Families, I would like to include all the members of the Irish family.

“In a particular way, I pray that it may further the growth of unity and reconciliation among all Christ’s followers, as a sign of that lasting peace which is God’s dream for our whole human family.”

The pope offered “a warm word of greeting to all the Irish people” and said he is “excited” to come back to Ireland. Fr Jorge Bergoglio, as the pontiff was known then, visited the Jesuit Institute in Milltown, Dublin between January and March 1980 to study English.


During his upcoming visit, the pope is due to attend the World Meeting of Families in Dublin and take part in Masses in the Phoenix Park and at Knock in Co Mayo.

It was also confirmed on Tuesday by the Vatican that the pope would meet some survivors of clerical child abuse. The topic has dominated much of the discussion ahead of his visit following the unexpected release of a letter from Francis just days after fresh revelations of abuse cover-ups by the church emerged in the US.

‘Listening mode’

Maeve Lewis, executive director of One in Four, a group which helps abuse survivors, said Francis could “learn a lot” if he is in an “open, listening mode” when meeting survivors.

She said it would have been an “insult” had the pope not met survivors and that some would very much want to engage while others would avoid him due to a sense of “betrayal”.

Protesters have arranged a series of rallies coinciding with the pope’s visit to highlight what they say has been the church’s failure to properly address the sexual abuse of children in the church’s care.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Tuesday said the Catholic Church should introduce mandatory reporting for clerical sex abuse. He said the letter issued by the pope on Monday needed to be followed by concrete actions.

“Among the things that we have done in Ireland is to bring in mandatory reporting. As of last year it is mandatory for people to report child sex abuse, or sex abuse if they are aware of that,” he said.

“Perhaps that is something the church and other institutions might consider implementing? Just because it is not the law in every country does not mean it is not the right thing to do,” Mr Varadkar said.

Under Irish mandatory reporting legislation, “mandated persons”, such as medical professionals, youth workers, members of the clergy, and teachers, have a legal responsibility to report suspected child abuse to authorities.


Bishop of Raphoe Alan McGuckian said he believed the church’s law on clerical abuse needed to be updated. He said that while he took heart from the pope’s letter, he was disappointed at the absence of concrete plans.

“The Church must go the next step. The Church has to account for bishops. That’s not there now.”

The Bishop said he believed real movement on the issue had taken place in Ireland and that it was good that the inquiries held to date had been independent.

"Nobody is above the law whether they are a church person or anyone else," he told RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

Former senator and child protection expert Jillian Van Turnhout said the advice coming from some lay Catholics in the field of child protection was: “do not work with the Vatican if you want to retain your faith. I think that is a difficulty many Irish people are experiencing”.

She said the problem was not historic. “I would just say they need to adhere to the Irish law. We have plenty of legislation in place, the idea that bishops are in some way exempted or above the law angers me.

“We have laws, for example the Criminal Justice Act of Reckless Endangerment, where basically if you know a child could be placed in a situation where they could potentially be abused, that is a criminal offence.”

The Towards Healing Counselling and Support Service has said that during the World Meeting of Families and the papal visit it would providing Helpline support for survivors of abuse and their families.

The service will be providing an extended service on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, next and can be accessed free on (Ireland) 1800 303 416 and (in Britain and Northern Ireland) 0800 096 3315.

A mobile phone number for texting purposes for hearing-impaired clients is on 085-8022859 and the website is towardshealing.ie.