Ireland 'different place today than it was in the past'

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told the Pope 'that the Ireland of the 21st century is a very different place today than it was in the past.'

In a speech in front of the pontiff inside Dublin Castle, Mr Varadkar said the past treatment of many women and young people by church and state had left a history of "sorrow and shame".

"In place of Christian charity, forgiveness and compassion, far too often here was judgement, severity and cruelty, in particular towards women and children and those on the margins," he said.

"Magdalene Laundries, Mother and Baby Homes, industrial schools, illegal adoptions and clerical child abuse are stains on our State, our society and also the Catholic Church. Wounds are still open and there is much to be done to bring about justice and truth and healing for victims and survivors.

He continued, "Holy Father, I ask that you use your office and influence to ensure this is done here in Ireland and across the world.

"In recent weeks, we have all listened to heart-breaking stories from Pennsylvania of brutal crimes perpetrated by people within the Catholic Church, and then obscured to protect the institution at the expense of innocent victims.

"There can only be zero tolerance for those who abuse innocent children or who facilitate that abuse.

"We must now ensure that from words flow actions. Above all, Holy Father, Iask to you to listen to the victims."