Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has condemned the Catholic Church’s abuse scandal in a speech welcoming the Pope to the country.
The papal visit occurred at the same time as the World Meeting of Families, where Catholic figures discuss the role of families in the church. The global meeting is held every three years.
At an event in Dublin Castle this afternoon (25 August 2018) attended by Pope Francis, political leaders, and dignitaries, the Taoiseach said that the abuse scandal left a ‘legacy of pain and suffering’ on both Ireland and the Church.
The openly gay leader said: ‘We think of the words of Psalm which tells us that “children are a heritage from the Lord” and we remember the way the failures of both Church and State and wider society created a bitter and broken heritage for so many, leaving a legacy of pain and suffering.
‘It is a history of sorrow and shame.
‘In place of Christian charity, forgiveness and compassion, far too often there was judgement, severity and cruelty, in particular towards women and children and those on the margins.’
He added: ‘Wounds are still open and there is much to be done to bring about justice and truth and healing for victims and survivors.
‘Holy Father, I ask that you use your office and influence to ensure this is done here in Ireland and across the World.’
Leo Varadkar also stated that ‘there can only be zero tolerance for those who abuse innocent children or who facilitate that abuse’. He goes on to ask the Pope to listen to survivors of abuse and to take action.
But he didn’t just comment on the abuse scandal. The Prime Minister also noted that, since the last visit of a Pope to Ireland 39 years ago, Ireland has legalized divorce, same-sex marriages, and abortions.
— Hugh O'Connell (@oconnellhugh) August 25, 2018
He said: ‘We have voted in our parliament and by referendum to modernize our laws – understanding that marriages do not always work, that women should make their own decisions, and that families come in many forms including those headed by a grandparent, lone parent, or same-sex parents or parents who are divorced.’
‘Building on our intertwined history, and learning from our shared mistakes, it can be one in which religion is no longer at the center of our society, but in which it still has an important place.’
The Pope’s retort
After the prime minister’s speech, the Pope took to the stage to deliver his own.
He said: ‘I cannot fail to acknowledge the grave scandal caused in Ireland by the abuse of young people by members of the Church charged with responsibility for their protection and education.
‘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.’
Earlier this week, Pope Francis wrote to the word’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics. In the letter he condemned the ‘atrocities’ of child abuse and the efforts of the Church to cover it up.
The Pope is expected to meet abuse survivors later today.
Reaction on Twitter
Thank you to the Irish PM leo Varadkar for mentioning all the atrocities that the Catholic Church committed by the Catholic institutions in Ireland in the front of Pope Francis.
— ScorpionInPink (@pinkintwit) August 25, 2018
I wasn't sure he'd do it, but Leo Varadkar has actually told the Pope how we value diversity, LGBT parenting & a woman's right to choose. This is not what I expected. Well done Leo. #PopeInIreland
— Fiona Kenny (@FionaKenny1) August 25, 2018
Ireland seems to be maturing everyday; unlike Brexit UK obsessed by a fictional past. #LeoVaradkar has just given a powerful, honest, pro-equality speech in front of the Pope. Talked abt Magdalene Laundries & abuse by the Church which has left "stains on our state & society."
— Gerry Hassan (@GerryHassan) August 25, 2018
What an absolute historical speech by Leo Varadkar. Hard hitting, honest, factual & downright to the point but at the same time Polite, honourable & all inclusive, well said that statesman.
— Tawasne (@billwith) August 25, 2018
What a pompous little man Leo Varadkar is
— Catholic Sat (@CatholicSat) August 25, 2018