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'A country transformed': How the world's media covered the pope's Irish visit

Correspondents came to Ireland to witness how the Pope would be received.

Pope Francis visit to Ireland - Day 2 Source: PA Wire/PA Images

AS WE WIND down after Pope’s visit (and reopen Dublin’s streets and the Phoenix Park), we took a quick glance at what the world’s media made of the historic event.

For those who have managed to remain unaware, Pope Francis visited Ireland for a two-day visit as part of the World Meeting of Families, a Catholic festival held every three years in a different country to discuss what it means to be a Catholic family.

The Pope met with President Michael D Higgins on Saturday morning before travelling through Dublin city centre, meeting with survivors of abuse by Catholic leaders and charity workers. Yesterday, he gave a two-hour Mass in the Phoenix Park, which remains closed today to clear up after the event.

The visit was much anticipated as a barometer for the Catholic Church’s influence in Ireland, after a significant change in societal values since the last Papal visit in 1979.

Around 500,000 people were expected at the event, but estimations put the numbers at much lower than that – around 130,000.

Here’s how the international media viewed the Pope’s visit.

Papa F Source: New York Times

The New York Times led up to the Pope’s visit with a piece called “Pope to Visit Ireland, Where Scars of Sex Abuse Are ‘Worse Than the IRA’”. They finished the visit with a piece which was almost as impactful: “In Ireland, Pope Francis Finds a Country Transformed and a Church in Tatters”.

Referencing how Ireland has changed in the 40 years since the Pope’s last visit – namechecking the legalisation of divorce, gay marriage, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s sexuality, and the recent Eighth Amendment referendum – the piece says:

“With recent revelations of institutional cover-ups of sexual abuse in the United States and Chile, many Catholics had hoped that Francis, who has struggled throughout his tenure to grasp the enormity of the scourge, would use the wreckage of the Irish church as a backdrop to announce muscular new measures to protect children in his church.”

The BBC gave a more straight piece about the visit, outlining the details of the visit and quoting parts of the Pope’s speech where he asked for forgiveness to the sexual abuses in Ireland by members of the Church.

They also referenced the crowd size, saying the Vatican estimated it as 300,000 strong, but said that “other crowd estimates were lower”.

France 24 also quoted parts of the pontiff’s speech about cases of sexual abuse in Ireland, and said that the “extent of these scandals partly explains the Church’s loss of influence over Irish society in recent years”.

Pope Source: France 24

“Pope begs forgiveness for ‘state of shame’ inflicted on Ireland”, was the headline of Reuters news. The story opened with:

Pope Francis on Sunday begged forgiveness for the multitude of abuses suffered by victims in Ireland at the hand of the church over decades as he concluded a tour of the once deeply Catholic country watched by parishioners and protesters.

In a later part of the article, referencing the recent abortion and gay marriage referendums, the piece states that those votes passed which “defied the Vatican”.

Al Jazeera said that the pontiff’s visit came amid “declining religious observance in the traditionally Catholic country and anger over the Catholic Church’s record on tackling sexual abuse by priests”.

“Ireland has one of the worst records for clerical sex abuse in the world, with more than 1,300 priests accused of sexual violence since 1975,” the article states.

Al Jazeera’s Neave Barker, reporting from Dublin, said the visit was a moment of great celebration for many but also “consternation” for others.
“The appeal, the power, and the draw of the Catholic Church in Ireland has waned in recent years. But I think it would be wrong to say that this is a post-Catholic country,” he said.

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