Pope Francis acknowledges ''grave scandal'' of abuse and questions abortion referendum

Derry MEP to meet with Pope Francis during his visit to Ireland this weekend

Pope Francis says he shares the outrage over the failures of church authorities to punish the "repugnant crimes" of priests who raped and molested children, seeking to respond to a global Catholic outcry over the abuse scandal at the start of his visit to Ireland.

Pope Francis, center, is flanked by Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, right, as they arrive to meet authorities, in Dublin, Ireland, Aug. 25, 2018.

Pope Francis has arrived in Ireland for the first papal visit to the country in nearly four decades.

Marie Collins, who was abused by a priest when she was being treated in hospital at the age of 13, was also among the eight.

One of the victims of Fr Tony Walsh, a priest and serial abuser who assaulted hundreds of children over almost two decades, was also present but preferred to remain anonymous.

The Irish government in 2015 launched a commission to investigate 18 such homes - the last of which closed in 1996 - after revelations that up to 800 infants may have died over several decades at one run by Catholic nuns in Tuam.

"We have a raging fire within the church".

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 welcome as a guest but he is going to have to take action rather than repeat platitudes if we are really going to have any respect for the Church generally", said Helen Carey, a visual arts curator, walking past Dublin Castle where the state reception will be held.

"Far too often there was judgement, severity and cruelty. people kept in dark corners, behind closed doors, cries for help that went unheard", he added. But in his speech to the Pope at Dublin Castle, he said both church and state had a history of "sorrow and shame", and he urged the Pope to ensure that victims of sex abuse find "justice and truth and healing".

When John Paul visited Ireland in 1979, in the first-ever papal visit, some 1.25 million people turned out for his inaugural Mass in Phoenix Park, a third of the country's population and the largest gathering in Irish history at the time.

Irish society is virtually unrecognisable from that time.

In Dublin, tens of thousands of people lined the streets to cheer Pope Francis on as his Popemobile made its way from St Mary's Pro-Cathedral, where he gave marriage advice to couples, to a hostel for homeless families.

"I'm delighted he is coming, I think it makes a great change from the last few years of bad news for the Church". In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI wrote a letter to Irish Catholics in which he said he was "truly sorry" for the "sinful and criminal" acts that happened in Ireland, but he did not discuss the Vatican's culpability.

The pope later attended a Festival of Families in Croke Park Stadium with more than 82,000 people in attendance.

The pope wrote a letter to the world's 1.3 billion Catholics vowing to prevent future "atrocities" but also conceding that no efforts "to fix the harm done will ever be sufficient".

His visit is the first by a pope to Ireland in 40 years and is aimed at showing the church understands the problems of ordinary Catholic families.

Citing what it learned from meetings across the country and written responses from Catholics, Ireland's Association of Catholic Priests said this month that there is "huge support" for "radical reform" among Irish Catholics, including the ordination of female priests.

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