Pope’s 2018 visit to Ireland

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News Comment on the Pope’s visit to Ireland 25 -26 August following controversy on abortion, same sex marriage and sex abuse scandals.

Archbishop Eamon Martin,  head of Ireland’s Roman Catholic Church (Archbishop of Armagh and the Primate of All Ireland) told the BBC:

“I think the Pope will reach out. He will try to express the grave sorrow of the Church. But I think people want more than that. He will want to express the Church’s commitment to ensure that if a member of your family is involved in any activity of the Church they are as safe there as they would be in your own home. They are as safe there as can possibly be.”

Mary MacAleese, former Irish president,  told RTE:

“The World Meeting of Families has always been essentially a right-wing rally and it was designed for that purpose, to rally people to get them motivated to fight against the tide of same-sex marriage, rights for gays, abortion rights, contraceptive rights. If I met the Pope, I would draw attention to the fact that leadership of the church is poorly qualified on its own to handle the challenges that it faces and it is going to have to draw on expertise from a wider range of people than the cardinal and bishops represent.  The church has a habit of addressing problems by writing lengthy documents that don’t contain clearly defined targets, goals or plans on women, clerical abuse and institutional failures.  The Pope says he is on the side of the victims and I believe that’s where his heart lies but the most telling thing is what will be done about that, not the expressions of sorrow – you would expect that from a man as humane as the pope. But the Pope has to navigate the pathway to a safer and better future for children and a more credible episcopacy. And everyone is saying now ‘Where is the plan?’. I haven’t seen one I don’t think anyone I know has seen the plan and that’s a problem.”

Professor Gavin D’Costa, Religion and Theology, University of Bristol:

“Pope Francis’ visit to Ireland is based on the World Meeting of Families festival which was set up by Pope John Paul II in 1994 and normally the incumbent pope celebrates the main mass. He is also due to meet with a cross section of survivors of abuse perpetrated by Catholics over many years. This is very important for the Irish Church and their public image. Compared to John Paul II’s visit in 1979 with more than a million turning out for mass, the numbers are expected to be significantly lower representing Ireland’s slow secularisation and disaffection with Catholicism. The Irish bishops hope his visit will help restore some confidence in the Catholic Church as a force for the common good.”

Kevin Hargaden, Social Theologian, Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice (Dublin) and Irish Bible Institute (Dublin):

“While attention will understandably fall on how Francis’ visit affects the decline in church attendance and whether he broaches the legacy of church abuse, it is significant that the Pope plans to visit the Capuchin Day Centre for the homeless in central Dublin. For

decades, this has been a port of call for those who have fallen on hard times, but in recent years, it is serving crowds every single day. Ireland is in the midst of a housing crisis with more than ten thousand people homeless, including four thousand children. The visit will hopefully pressure the Irish State to meet the desperate need for housing that afflicts so many.”

Tom Hayes, Secretary Alliance Support Group, representing victims of abuse in institutions in Ireland

“The Pope’s visit may satisfy those making claims against the church for victims of clergy sexual abuse. But those children abused by lay people and people in religious orders have been forgotten.”

Hugh Turpin, post doctoral Researcher in the Anthropology of Religion, Queen’s University Belfast:

“Unlike the 1979 visit, the Pontiff will find himself in a country that has recently, and very publicly, rejected Catholic social teaching in referenda on same-sex marriage and abortion, in which religious practice is in sharp decline, and where the reputation of the Church has become severely tarnished due to scandals around clerical sexual abuse, institutional cover-ups, and a number of other issues. In particular, controversy revolves around how the Pope will deal with the issue of clerical sexual abuse while in Ireland and demonstrations by survivors and their supporters have been planned.  Other issues of controversy which have dogged the visit have been secularist protestors ‘buying up’ tickets to the papal events, and irate discourse around the State financially supporting the visit despite the Church’s failure to provide the agreed-upon recompense to abuse victims.”


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