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Taoiseach says he will raise clerical abuse with Pope if he gets opportunity

Pope Francis is travelling to Ireland later this month for two days to take part in the World Meetings of Families.

Image: Massimo Valicchia via PA Images

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said he hopes to raise the issues of same-sex families, Magdalene Laundries and sexual/physical abuse with Pope Francis during his visit to Ireland later this month.

Pope Francis is travelling to Ireland on 25 August for two days to take part in the World Meetings of Families, in which he will say Mass at Dublin’s Phoenix Park and in Knock.

Talking to reporters at a summer briefing, Varadkar said that he is “really glad that the Pope is visiting Ireland” and that the visit is “very welcome”.

“He is the religious leader of a billion people and also head of State and I’m very pleased that he’s going to be saying Mass in the Phoenix Park and also in Knock, as you can see there’s huge interest from the general public in that,” Varadkar said.

Varadkar said that if the opportunity arose during the Pope’s visit to Ireland, he would express “the real concerns that the Irish people have”.

These involve issues such as “the Church’s involvement in Magdalene Laundries, in Mother and Baby Homes, in sexual/physical abuse”.

He said he wasn’t sure what interactions he would have with the Pope and said he may be meeting him during an event in Dublin Castle on the Saturday.

Controversy arose this week after reports that Pope Francis may not have time to meet with clerical abuse survivors during his visit to Ireland, prompting heavy criticism.

However, The Irish Times reported on Friday that the pope will meet abuse survivors as part of his visit, however details of who he will meet will not be released in advance.

Speaking in June, Archbishop Eamon Martin said that the Pope “has been and will be” briefed on the extent of clerical abuse. He had generally met with victims’ and survivors’ groups quietly during his international visits in order to respect the anonymity of those involved, the Archbishop added.

LGBT families

Varadkar added that he also wishes to express to the Pope “our views as a society and a government that families come in all sorts of different forms and that includes families that are… by same-sex parents and other families as well”.

The question of whether LGBT couples who are members of the Church would be welcome at the World Meeting of Families event was raised earlier this year after it emerged pictures featuring same-sex partners were removed from a reissued booklet about August’s event sent to parishes.

Martin also said in June that LGBT couples are “of course” welcome to volunteer at the upcoming World Meeting of Families event.

Martin said that the Amoris Laetitia (a 2016 exhortation from the Pope that stresses every person regardless of sexual orientation ought to be respected) would be the guiding document of the week’s events.

Varadkar was also asked about the barring of former President of Ireland Mary McAleese from taking part in an International Women’s Day conference which was due to take place in the Holy See earlier this year.

He said that “if the opportunity arises”, he will address that situation with the Pope too.

Pope Francis will arrive in Dublin Airport on Saturday morning 25 August and will pay a visit to Áras an Uachtaráin on his way to events at Dublin Castle and St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral that afternoon (you’ll find the full schedule here).

He will speak at the Feast of Families at Croke Park on Saturday evening, and will visit the shrine at Knock the following morning before saying mass at Dublin’s Phoenix Park at 3pm on Sunday afternoon.

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