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Dublin: 8 °C Monday 9 December, 2019
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'We ask pardon for all the abuses' Pope Francis tells Mass in unscripted remarks

He has been criticised for not going far enough in his comments this weekend.

Pope Francis attends the closing Mass at the World Meeting of Families at Phoenix Park in Dublin.
Pope Francis attends the closing Mass at the World Meeting of Families at Phoenix Park in Dublin.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

THE POPE ADDRESSED the issue of abuses by Church members in his first words at this afternoon’s Papal Mass at Dublin’s Phoenix Park, in a departure from the expected script.

Speaking in Spanish, Pope Francis said:

“We ask forgiveness for the abuse in Ireland. Abuses of power, conscience and sexual abuse perpetrated by members with roles of responsibility in the Church.

“In a special way we ask pardon for all the abuses committed in various institutions run by male or female religious members of the Church and we ask for forgiveness for those cases of exploitation through manual work that so many young women and men were subjected to.

We ask forgiveness for the times that as a Church we did not show survivors of whatever kind of abuse compassion and the seeking of justice and truth through concrete actions. We ask for forgiveness.

There was applause at several points as he made his comments, which were relayed to the crowd via a translator.

The pope’s comments were, if not off-the-cuff, not necessarily expected. Material on what he would say in his homily was distributed to the press ahead of the Mass – and his remarks at the opening of the ceremony were a departure from that.

The pope has been criticised for not going far enough in his remarks on abuse during his visit to Ireland, and this afternoon’s comments are notable in that he asked the congregation for forgiveness.

In Knock this morning he said that in his silent prayer to the statue of the Virgin Mary, he had presented to her all of the victims of abuse committed by members of the Church in Ireland and asked God for forgiveness ”for these sins and for the scandal and betrayal felt by so many others in God’s family”.

The pontiff also addressed the issue of clerical abuse in his keynote speech at Dublin Castle yesterday, commenting that be could not fail to “acknowledge” the scandal. Campaigners pointed out in the wake of that address that he did not apologise publicly to survivors and he did not mention the overall responsibility of the Church in relation to the abuse.

Yesterday the pontiff met with eight survivors of clerical, religious and institutional abuse, including Paul Redmond of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors.

Remond said the pope had apologised for what happened in the Church-run homes and condemned the corruption and cover-up as “caca”, which can be translated literally as “shit”.

The attendance at the Phoenix Park Mass is lower than expected, and though no official figures have been released as yet aerial shots of the crowd show sections of clear space in the sprawling area cordoned off for the event.

Weather conditions were very poor in Dublin and across much of the country this morning, with prolonged rain.

A demonstration in support of survivors of abuse is taking place at Parnell Square in the city centre to coincide with the pope’s Mass.

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