Pope Francis criticised Irish church authorities today over failures to respond to sexual abuse allegations.
Speaking during his first public appearance at the Vatican after accusations he also covered up for a former US cardinal, the Pope lamented Irish church bosses inaction over historic abuse crimes.
Francis presided over his weekly general audience in St Peter’s Square and spoke about his weekend trip to Ireland, where the abuse scandal has devastated the Catholic Church’s credibility.
Pope Francis asked forgiveness for the ‘abuses in Ireland, abuses of power, conscience and sexual abuses’ perpetrated by Church leaders while visiting Dublin
The final day of the trip was overshadowed by release of a document from a retired Holy See diplomat accusing Vatican authorities, including Francis, of covering up for ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick – despite knowing for years that he regularly slept with religious scholars.
The author of the document – retired Vatican ambassador to the US Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano – said Francis should resign for his complicity in the McCarrick scandal, which has implicated US and Vatican church leaders over a period of two decades.
During his two-day visit to the Republic of Ireland – which was the first papal visit to the country for 39 years – Pope Francis has begged forgiveness for members of the Catholic Church’s hierarchy who ‘kept quiet’ about clerical child sex abuse.
Ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick ordered to live a lifetime of penance and prayer by Pope Francis after a US church investigation determined that an allegation he groped a teenage altar boy in the 1970s was credible
While celebrating a Mass at Dublin’s Phoenix Park, the Argentine Pope asked forgiveness for the ‘abuses in Ireland, abuses of power, conscience and sexual abuses’ perpetrated by Church leaders.
In his first address since returning to the Vatican, Francis referred to the Irish culture of cover-up, but he omitted from his remarks a line in his prepared text noting how he had prayed in Ireland for the Virgin Mary to intervene to give the church strength to ‘firmly pursue truth and justice’ to help victims heal.
US bishops have called for an independent investigation to find out who knew about McCarrick’s abuse and when, and how he was able to rise through the ranks even though it was an open secret that he regularly invited seminarians to his New Jersey beach house and into his bed.
Francis last month removed McCarrick as a cardinal and ordered him to live a lifetime of penance and prayer after a US church investigation determined that an allegation he groped a teenage altar boy in the 1970s was credible.
Mr Vigano’s 11-page letter alleges that Francis knew of McCarrick’s attitude to seminarians starting in 2013, but rehabilitated him from sanctions that Pope Benedict XVI had allegedly imposed on him in 2009 or 2010.
Pope Francis waves from the steps of his Shepherd One plane during a farewell ceremony upon his departure at Dublin Airport
Retired Vatican ambassador to the US Carlo Maria Vigano called for Francis to resign over what he called his ‘complicity’ in the McCarrick scandal
But evidence suggests the Vatican under Benedict and St John Paul II also covered up the information, and that any reported sanctions Benedict imposed were never enforced since McCarrick travelled widely for the church during those years, including to Rome to meet with Benedict and celebrate Mass with other US bishops at the tomb of St Peter.
The Irish Catholic Church has been rocked by revelations of paedophile priests, sexual abuse in Catholic-run orphanages, and the exploitation of women in mother-and-baby homes.
He later met eight survivors of sexual abuse, reportedly telling them he viewed clerical sex abuse as “filth”.