DUBLIN — Pope Francis began his final Mass in Ireland with a litany of repentance for victims of sexual abuse and of abuse “of power and conscience.”
As the Pope was seeking repentance, there was a call for his resignation from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who was the papal nuncio to Washington before Francis recalled him in 2016.
Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Mass at the Phoenix Park in Dublin, while on a two-day visit to Ireland. Lower than expected crowds greeted the Pope in the wake of the latest sex abuse scandal.
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The archbishop contended in a letter that Francis had allowed former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick to retain his influential role despite knowing for years of allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
The cardinal was banned from ministry and resigned earlier this year when it became publicly known he sexually abused boys and exploited young adult seminarians.
At the Mass in Ireland, Francis did not address the Vigano letter, which was published in a newspaper.
The Pope did, as he has before, acknowledge failures of the hierarchy for failing to heed the victims of sexual abuse by priests.
He lamented other abuses in church-run institutions that have shocked and alienated many in this once-staunchly Catholic country.
That included those subjected to hard labor, which have included unwed mothers forced to work in laundries.
The Pope also spoke of unwed mothers forced to give up children for adoption, and the children themselves, in explicitly affirming that contrary to what some priests had told them, it is not a mortal sin to seek reunion with one’s birth family.
The crowd applauded several times.
Earlier, thousands of people cheered Pope Francis as he arrived for the open-air Mass in Dublin’s Phoenix Park to conclude his two-day visit to Ireland on a chilly and breezy Sunday afternoon.
Local media reported the crowd was far smaller than the projected half-million, which is based on the numbers of free tickets distributed in advance.
But those who did show up expressed their enthusiasm.
The crowds cheered as the Pope made his trademark rounds through the crowd in the Popemobile, waving and greeting them as they waved back or tried to capture the moment on their cell phones.
A melancholic air hovered over the entire visit because of outrage over the scandals.
Even as the Pope was saying his final Mass before flying home to Rome, others were demonstrating at a national memorial in Dublin on behalf of abuse victims and others marginalized by the church.
And in the western town of Tuam, many held vigil for hundreds of children who died over the years at a “mother and babies home.”
Protesters marched through Tuam and recited the names of an estimated 800 babies and young children who died at a Catholic Church-run orphanage there, most during the 1950s.
Survivors of the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home lit candles and placed hundreds of pairs of tiny shoes around a white coffin at the mass grave near a sewage area on the home’s former grounds where the babies and children were buried.
Irish government-appointed investigators reported last year that DNA analysis of selected remains confirmed the ages of the dead ranged from 35 weeks to 3 years old and were buried chiefly in the 1950s.
The Tuam home closed in 1961.
An amateur Irish historian, Catherine Corless, led to the discovery of the grave after she tracked down death certificates for nearly 800 children who had died as residents of the facility.
Ms. Corless and Tuam survivors are seeking an apology from the Pope, as well as a decision to exhume the children’s remains to give them a proper church burial.
Advocates for abuse victims say the Pope needs to put actions behind his words, such as revising church laws to banish any abusive priest from ministry around the world, as well as any bishop or other superior who enables an abuser.
The Pope began the day with a morning visit to the Marian shrine in Knock in the west of Ireland.
He made reference to the scandal of sexual abuse of children by priests, acknowledging it as an “open wound.”
Worshippers said they hoped the Pope’s words would start a healing in the nation, but they recognized it would be a long haul.
This report includes information from the Associated Press.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Peter Smith is religion editor for the Post-Gazette. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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