Papal visit: Pope Francis begins two-day Irish visit

Pope Francis has arrived at Dublin Airport for the Republic of Ireland’s first papal visit for almost 40 years.

The Pope is expected to meet victims of clerical sex abuse later on Saturday.

In a letter to the world’s 1.2bn Roman Catholics, the Pope this week condemned the “atrocities” of child abuse and clerical cover-ups.

The visit coincides with the World Meeting of Families – a global Catholic gathering held every three years.

It will end with a Mass for 500,000 people at Phoenix Park on Sunday.

The Pope was presented with flowers and vestments by children at the airport.

He has now arrived at Áras an Uachtaráin, the Irish president’s residence, where he has been welcomed by President Michael D Higgins and a military guard of honour.

The Ireland that he is visiting is a different country to that which greeted Pope John Paul II in 1979.

Since the Polish pope’s visit, there have been huge changes in public attitudes to social issues including abortion, contraception, divorce and same-sex marriage.

The country voted for constitutional change on gay marriage in 2015 and voted overwhelmingly to overturn its strict abortion law in May.

The Irish Catholic Church has been engulfed in scandal with the uncovering of widespread clerical sexual abuse of children and cover-ups.

Child sex abuse scandals continue to embroil the Church around the globe.

On Friday, Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister (taoiseach), said he hoped Pope Francis’s visit would mark the beginning of a new chapter in Ireland’s relationship with the Church.

“In the past the Catholic Church had too much of a dominant place in our society,” he said.

At the airport: Leanna Byrne, BBC News NI

Running slightly behind schedule, Pope Francis stepped off the Air Italia plane after 10:45 BST.

There was a big crowd to meet the Pope on his arrival, including Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, an Irish family, cardinals and bishops.

While some might have expected a kneel and a kiss of the ground like Pope John Paul II in 1979, there was nothing but smiles and handshakes from Pope Francis.

Very quickly, he stepped into his Skoda car with its SCV1 license plate to be taken to meet the president.

“It still has a place in our society, but not one that determines public policy or determines our laws.”

The taoiseach described the papal visit as one of the biggest events in Ireland in the past 40 years, adding it was also a chance for the Pope to speak directly to those harmed by crimes that took place in Church-run institutions.

The Vatican said the meeting with sex-abuse survivors would not be announced until after it was over, and that it would be up to victims if they wanted to speak afterwards.

On Saturday evening, the Pope will attend the Festival of Families concert in Dublin’s Croke Park stadium.

More than 70,000 people are expected to take part, with the world-renowned tenor Andrea Bocelli due to perform.

Other acts on the bill include Nathan Carter, Daniel O’Donnell, Moya Brennan, the Begley Family and the Priests.

Papal visit to Ireland: Itinerary highlights

Saturday 25 August

  • 08:15 – Departure by plane from Rome for Dublin
  • 10:30 – Arrival at Dublin Airport for official welcome
  • 10:45 – Transfer to Áras an Uachtaráin (Irish president’s residence)
  • 11:15 – Welcome ceremony with President Michael D. Higgins
  • 12:10 – Arrival at Dublin Castle for meeting with authorities, civil society and diplomatic corps
  • 15:30 – Visit to St Mary’s Pro Cathedral
  • 16:30 – Private visit to the Capuchin Day Centre, a centre for homeless people
  • 19:45 – Preside at the Festival of Families at Croke Park stadium

Sunday 26 August

  • 08:40 – Departure by plane for Knock
  • 09:45 – Arrival at Knock Shrine for visit to the Apparition Chapel and recitation of the Angelus
  • 11:15 – Departure by plane for Dublin
  • 12:30 – Lunch with the Papal Delegation
  • 15:00 – Closing Papal Mass of the World Meeting of Families in Phoenix Park
  • 18:30 – Farewell ceremony at Dublin Airport
  • 18:45 – Departure for Rome
  • 23:00 – Arrival in Rome

Source : BBC