Catholic pilgrims have gathered in torrential rain this morning for a chance to see Pope Francis as he visits the Knock holy shrine on day two of his trip to Ireland.
Plastic ponchos and blue flags were handed out to worshippers hoping to see the 81-year-old pontiff when he follows in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II by visiting Knock, County Mayo, regarded as the site of an apparition and revered by many Irish Catholics.
Around half a million people are expected to gather to hear Pope Francis, the first pontiff to visit Ireland for almost 40 years, address a huge outdoor Mass in Dublin’s Phoenix Park on Sunday afternoon.
On a day of contrasts on Saturday the Pope spoke of his ‘pain and shame’ at Ireland’s history of clerical sex abuse amid protests against the Catholic Church, before he waved to cheering crowds from his Popemobile and more than 80,000 people gathered to see him at Croke Park.
Worshippers brave the rain at Knock Shrine in County Mayo this morning where Pope Francis is due to appear today
Ponchos were handed out to the devout Catholics who had turned out early in the morning for a chance to see the Pope
The evening at Croke Park included a performance of Riverdance by 500 children from dance schools around Ireland, and entertainment from local and international artists – joined by an orchestra of more than 50 musicians – including Andrea Bocelli.
The Pope had earlier spent 90 minutes speaking with eight Irish survivors of abuse at the Papal Nuncio’s residence in Dublin.
The pontiff said victims had a right to be outraged at the ‘repellent crimes’ against young people, while Ireland’s prime minister Leo Varadkar urged him to ‘listen to the victims’, saying the history of abuse had left a legacy of ‘sorrow and shame’.
Francis landed in Dublin yesterday morning on an Alitalia flight from Rome – flying with the call sign ‘Shepherd One’ – to begin the first visit by a Pope to Ireland since John Paul II visited in 1979.
He greeted a country where Catholic loyalties are declining and which recently distanced itself further from the Vatican’s teaching with a referendum vote to legalise abortion, three years after similar backing for same-sex marriage. Yesterday he met Ireland’s first gay prime minister.
Tens of thousands gathered in Dublin as he passed through in his Popemobile, a Skoda Rapid model, waving and smiling to the crowds on Dame Street. But demonstrators also assembled around the city to protest against clerical crimes, amid a row over the Vatican’s response to similar claims of institutional abuse in America.
Pilgrims arrive at the shrine this morning where blue flags and ponchos were handed out to Catholic worshippers
Staff members at the shrine wear plastic covers over their uniforms at the start of the Pope’s second day in Ireland
Catholics hold up umbrellas outside the pilgrimage site as they wait for the Pope to appear at the shrine in Knock
Speaking at St Patrick’s Hall in Dublin Castle, the Pope said: ‘With regard to the most vulnerable, 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,’ he said.
‘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.’
Mr Varadkar said he hoped the papal visit would mark a ‘new chapter’ in Ireland’s relationship with the Catholic Church.
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’.
Pilgrims cover up from the rain with coats and umbrellas as they wait to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis on Sunday
The Pope will follow in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II by visiting Knock, regarded as the site of an apparition
The faithful wait in the rain ahead of a visit by Pope Francis to Knock shrine on the second day of his visit to Ireland
Varadkar cited the recent Pennsylvania grand jury report, which found 300 priests had abused more than 1,000 children over 70 years in six dioceses, in urging Francis to ‘ensure that from words flow actions’.
He said: ‘We have voted in our parliament and by referendum to modernise 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.’
‘Holy Father, I believe that the time has now come for us to build a new relationship between church and state in Ireland – a new covenant for the 21st century. It is my hope that your visit marks the opening of a new chapter in the relationship between Ireland and the Catholic Church.’
The Pope’s decision to address the dark legacy of abuse in a speech in Dublin Castle drew praise in some quarters, but others criticised Francis for not saying enough or offering a public apology.