The Pope arrives in Ireland for historic two-day visit

Credit: ITN

The Pope has arrived in Ireland for a historic two-day visit.

The pontiff's flight from Rome touched down at Dublin Airport at 10.26am on Saturday 25 August.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to welcome Francis during his whistle-stop tour of the capital city and Co Mayo over the weekend.

Over the weekend, the Pope will witness a country that has undergone seismic social changes in the four decades since the last papal visit in 1979, when John Paul II was lauded by a nation shaped by its relationship with an all-powerful Catholic Church.

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While Francis is sure to receive a warm reception from the thousands of pilgrims who have travelled to be part of the occasion, he will also be met by protesters angry at how the church dealt with multiple clerical sex abusescandals that have damaged trust in the religious institution and seriouslyweakened its influence on Irish society.

At some point over the weekend, the Pope will meet a number of abuse victims in a private meeting amid expectation he will use his public utterances elsewhere to confront the emotive issue.

He is due to make a speech at Dublin Castle around lunchtime on Saturday,shortly after meeting Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Earlier this week, the Pope wrote a 2,000-word letter to Catholics in which he condemned the crime of sexual abuse by priests and subsequent cover-ups.

He demanded accountability in response to fresh revelations in Pennsylvania in the United States of decades of misconduct by clerics.

Irish and Vatican flags flying from the cockpit window of the Credit: ITN

Francis is ostensibly in Ireland to attend the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) - a major global church event focused on promoting family values.

However, he will also fulfil a number of other engagements.

With Ireland in the midst of a high-profile homelessness problem, the Pope will meet a number of impacted individuals and families at a centre run by areligious order.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to line the streets of Dublin city centre on Saturday afternoon as he passes through in his famous Popemobile.

In the evening he will join 82,000 pilgrims at a musical festival in thelandmark Croke Park Gaelic Athletic Association stadium.

On Sunday, the Pope will fly west to Co Mayo, where he will follow in thefootsteps of John Paul II and take part in a religious service at a Holy shrinein Knock.

He will then return to Dublin for the closing centrepiece of the WMOF event - an outdoor Mass in front of an expected congregation of half a million people in Phoenix Park.

Pope Francis signs the visitors book at Aras an Uachtarain. Credit: RTE Pool Feed

Pope Francis met with Irish president Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabrina at Aras an Uachtarain in Phoenix Park in Dublin.

The Irish greeting party also included Irish government minister for childrenand youth affairs Katherine Zappone.

An Irish Army band played the national anthems of Vatican City and Irelandduring the arrival ceremony.

Moving inside the property, the pontiff signed the visitors book beforeentering into a private meeting with Mr Higgins.

Pope Francis signs the visitor book in Dublin Castle. Credit: RTE Pool Feed

In a speech at Dublin Castle, the Pope has expressed hope that remaining obstacles in the Northern Ireland peace process can be overcome.

Francis praised those who helped forge the historic Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

In an apparent reference to the political deadlock at Stormont, Francis said: "We can give thanks for the two decades of peace that followed this historic agreement while expressing firm hope that the peace process will overcome every remaining obstacle and help give birth to a future of harmony, reconciliation and mutual trust."

Northern Ireland has been without a properly functioning devolved government for 20 months.

The pontiff speaking at Dublin Castle. Credit: RTE Pool Feed

The Pope has spoken of his pain and shame at the failure of church authorities to tackle the grave scandal of clerical abuse in Ireland.

He said said people had a right to be outraged at the response of senior church figures to the "repellent crimes" inflicted on young people.

"With regard to the most vulnerable, I cannot fail to acknowledge the gravescandal caused in Ireland by the abuse of young people by members of the Church charged with responsibility for their protection and education," he said in a speech at Dublin Castle.

"The failure of ecclesiastical authorities - bishops, religious superiors, priests and others - adequately to address these repellent crimes has rightly given rise to outrage and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community. I myself share those sentiments."