Pope Francis “begged for God’s forgiveness” on Sunday for multiple abuse scandals within the Irish church but faced accusations by a former Vatican official that he had personally ignored allegations against senior clergy.
In front of 45,000 supporters at the rain-soaked Knock shrine in the west of Ireland, the pope sought forgiveness over the “open wound” of the church’s s-e-xual abuse scandal and demanded “firm and decisive” measures to find “truth and justice”.
At a later Mass to tens of thousands of flag-waving worshippers at Dublin’s Phoenix Park, the showpiece event of the two-day visit to the former Catholic stronghold, he also confessed to other abuses by the Irish church, including at its so-called “mother and baby” homes.
But in the city centre around 5,000 abuse victims and their supporters braved the weather to attend the “Stand for Truth” rally.
The scandal has dogged the visit and intensified overnight when a former Vatican envoy to the US accused Francis of personally ignoring s-e-xual abuse claims against prominent US cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was forced to resign last month.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano wrote in a letter published in the National Catholic Register that he had told Francis of the allegations in 2013, but that he had responded by lifting sanctions imposed on McCarrick by predecessor Pope Benedict.
“He (Pope Francis) knew from at least 23 June 2013 that McCarrick was a serial predator,” wrote Vigano,” adding “he knew that he was a corrupt man, he covered for him to the bitter end.”
The Vatican said it had no comment to make on the claims.
The pope met eight abuse victims on Saturday, including a woman assaulted by a priest when she was in hospital aged 13.
The pontiff is in Ireland to close the 2018 World Meeting of Families (WMOF) — a global Catholic gathering that addressed issues including the treatment of gay people in the Church.
It is the first papal visit to Ireland since John Paul II spoke in front of 1.5 million people during a visit in 1979.