Pope Francis to face child sex abuse protests during Irish visit

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Pope Francis will face protests from child sex abuse survivors when he visits Ireland this summer, a campaigner has vowed.

The Pontiff, 81, will arrive in Dublin on Saturday August 25 and will take part in the Festival of Families, a faith-based cultural concert, in Croke Park.

He will also celebrate Mass at the Phoenix Park on Sunday August 26 during the first trip to the country by the head of the Catholic Church for almost 40 years.

The Pope has apologised for hurting victims’ feelings in Chile after insisting there was no evidence against a bishop accused of covering up sexual abuse.

Margaret McGuckin was instrumental in establishing a public inquiry into sexual, physical and emotional wrongdoing dating back decades in Catholic-run residential homes in Northern Ireland.

She said: “I am sure people could get quite angry and irate that the Pope is still coming.”

She added: “Our groups will be there to protest, there still remains a cover-up, we still know there has not been a proper investigation done into the abuses of the Christian Brothers.”

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has welcomed confirmation of the Pope’s attendance at the World Meeting of Families.

The Irish Catholic Bishops Conference said: “We eagerly await the visit of Pope Francis which no doubt will be an occasion of spiritual renewal for our laity, religious and clergy, as well as a strengthening of Christian family life.”

Two years ago the Pope published new guidelines on family life that argued the Church should show more understanding of modern realities.

There is no suggestion of any change from the Church’s long-held position that marriage is between a man and a woman.

The bishops added: “We are deeply honoured that Pope Francis will come to our country to participate in this universal church celebration of faith and joy, as well as of the contemporary challenges which face families.

“With great anticipation we also look forward to hearing the apostolic guidance of His Holiness during his stay with us.”

When Pope John Paul II visited Ireland in 1979, more than a million people turned out for an open air Mass.

Then homosexuality and divorce was illegal and the Catholic Church held great social control over the population.

Since then the Church has been hit by worldwide sex scandals and has struggled with increased secularism across western Europe. It campaigned against legalisation of gay marriage but it was passed following a public referendum.

The country is due to hold another referendum on Ireland’s strict abortion rules later this year.

The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, is organising what the church billed as a “global celebration” during the Pope’s visit.

The Taoiseach said: “On behalf of the Government I welcome the announcement by Pope Francis of his intention to come to Ireland in August for the World Meeting of Families.

“I look forward to meeting him during his visit.”

While it is not a formal State Visit, it will be a major event for Ireland, with a high degree of public participation and a high international profile.

On Wednesday in Rome two Irish families presented the official World Meeting of Families 2018 Icon of the Holy Family to Pope Francis during his weekly general audience in Saint Peter’s Square.

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