Pope Francis asks for forgiveness for abuses carried out by Catholic Church members

Pope Francis has addressed the clerical abuse scandal in Ireland, listing a litany of different types of abuse and mistreatment inflicted on people in the country by church figures, and asked for forgiveness for it.

Deviating from the script of his prepared speech, and speaking in Spanish as a result, Francis said: "We ask forgiveness for the abuses in Ireland, abuses of power, of conscience, and sexual abuses perpetrated by members with roles of responsibility in the church."

Praying for the strength to achieve justice for the victims, the Pope referred to his private meeting with eight abuse survivors on Saturday evening, explaining that he wanted to take up what they had said to him.

The abuse scandal has hung over the first papal visit to Ireland since 1979.

Speaking at the closing mass of the World Meeting of Families in Phoenix Park, the pontiff asked for forgiveness for abuses such as industrial laundries and clerical cover-ups of sex crimes.

"We ask forgiveness for the times that, as a church, we did not show the survivors of whatever kind of abuse the compassion and the seeking of justice and truth through concrete actions," the 81-year-old said.

Francis ended his prayer by saying: "Give us the strength to work for justice. Amen."

Each time the Pope asked "for forgiveness" his words were met with applause from the 500,000 gathered.

As the Pope's pleas for forgiveness rang out at the open-air mass, elsewhere in Dublin, thousands of abuse survivors and campaigners protested over the papal visit and held a Time for Truth rally at the at the Garden of Remembrance in the city.

Lisa Bracken, of the Say Nope to the Pope group, said: “As the supporters of the Catholic Church gather in the Phoenix Park to wave their flags and express their joy, there are much more important issues taking place.

“Many victims of this organisation are finding it extremely difficult to cope with their emotions and mental health this weekend.

“It seems that their suppressed memories are coming back to haunt them and the only thing keeping them on an even keel is the thought that everyone here today in attendance and supporting us from afar are doing something about it.”

A vigil for the victims was also held at the site of the mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway, where a mass grave containing around 800 babies not afforded proper burials was recently uncovered.

Thousands gathered in Dublin to protest against the Pope's visit. Credit: PA

Earlier on Sunday, during a visit to a holy shrine, the Pope again begged for God’s forgiveness as he called for firm action in pursuing justice for church abuse victims in Ireland.

At an address at the holy shrine of Knock, in Co Mayo, Francis said the crimes committed by members of the church had left an “open wound” and that no-one could fail to be moved by stories of young abuse victims who were “robbed of their innocence” and left with “painful memories”.

Thousands of pilgrims who braved the rain to see the Pope at a site revered by Irish Catholics applauded as he urged decisive steps to bring truth to the victims.

Arrives in Phoneix Park on the Popemobile. Credit: AP

“None of us can fail to be moved by the stories of young people who suffered abuse, were robbed of their innocence and left scarred, distanced from mothers, abandoned, and left with painful memories,” he said.

“This open wound challenges us to be firm and decisive in the pursuit of truth and justice.

“I beg the Lord’s forgiveness for these sins and for the scandal and betrayal felt by so many others in God’s family.

“I ask our Blessed Mother to intercede for the healing of the survivors and to confirm every member of our Christian family in the resolve never again to permit these situations to occur.”

Pilgrims braved miserable conditions to hear the Pope speak. Credit: PA
People arrived early in Phoenix Park to get the best spots. Credit: AP

The first day of the papal visit on Saturday was dominated by the bitter legacy of historical scandals linked to church abuse and mistreatment.

On Saturday evening, the Pope met a number of victims of criminality and cruelty inflicted by church members.

The private engagement in Dublin came hours after Francis expressed “pain and shame” over failures to tackle the scandals.

Some of the survivors who attended the behind-closed-doors meeting said the pontiff employed blunter language with them, apparently using the Spanish word “caca” – Spanish for “shit” – to describe those who covered up abuse.

Abuse survivor Marie Collins, who was at the meeting, told the Press Association: “He was very frank, he listened to us all and he gave us all an opportunity to talk about our experiences.”

The Pope was driven through the crowds in Knock in a Popemobile ahead of entering a chapel at the site for a period of silent prayer.

The Pope was not immune from the blustery weather at Knock. Credit: AP

In August 1879, 15 people said they saw an apparition at Knock of the Virgin Mary, St Joseph, St John the Evangelist and a lamb.

Around 1.5 million people now visit the site every year.

While around 45,000 free tickets were distributed for the Knock event and 500,000 for the outdoor Phoenix Park Mass in Dublin, the final head counts may be impacted by the very bad weather in Ireland on Sunday.

The Pope addressed the issue of abuse before leading the pilgrims at Knock in prayer.

On Saturday, the world leader of the Catholic Church acknowledged that Irish people had a right to be outraged by its response to abuse crimes.

The Pope’s decision to address the dark legacy of abuse in a speech in Dublin Castle drew praise in some quarters, but others criticised Francis for not offering a public apology or directly acknowledging the Vatican’s role in the failures.

With the reverberations of a litany of clerical sex crimes casting a shadow over the first papal visit to Ireland since 1979, Francis acknowledged the gravity of what had happened during his address.

Some 500,000 attended the mass in Phoenix Park to hear the Pope speak. Credit: PA

On Saturday, the Pope also visited homeless people who receive support from a centre run by the Capuchin Fathers’ religious order.

In his Knock speech, the Pope also offered a “warm greeting” to the people of Northern Ireland and said while his itinerary did not include a trip north of the border, he offered an assurance to people in the region of his “affection”.

“I ask Our Lady to sustain all the members of the Irish family to persevere, as brothers and sisters, in the work of reconciliation,” he added.

On Sunday evening, Pope Francis left Ireland and headed back to Rome,

After he left, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he "welcomed Pope Francis’s call for firm and decisive action and for forgiveness.

"We now ask that from words flow actions", and thanked the pontiff for his visit.