Pope Francis's visit to Ireland
|Date||25–26 August 2018|
Áras an Uachtaráin,|
St Mary's Pro-Cathedral,
Capuchin Day Centre for Homeless People,
|Cause||World Meeting of Families 2018|
|Organised by||Archdiocese of Dublin & the Government of Ireland|
Pope Francis visited Ireland on 25 and 26 August 2018, as part of the World Meeting of Families 2018. It was the first visit by a reigning pontiff to the country since 1979 (though Francis had spent time studying English in Dublin in 1980, as Fr Jorge Bergoglio).
On the morning of 11 June 2018, full details of the pope's schedule were unveiled. Catholic Primate of All Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin and Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin announced the schedule in Maynooth before members of the media. The Government of Ireland also launched its official website for the papal visit.
Day 1: August 25, Saturday
Upon touching down at Dublin Airport, Pope Francis was first greeted by Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney, alongside his wife and three young daughters. Each of the Coveney daughters greeted the pope in a different language (Italian, Spanish and English) and presented him with a posy of flowers. He then travelled in a blue Škoda Rapid, his preferred mode of transport for the visit to Dublin. Afterwards, the vehicle would be donated to the social care agency of the Catholic Church in Dublin, Crosscare, a homeless charity.
The pope began his day with a drive to Phoenix Park to visit Áras an Uachtaráin. There he met with President Michael D. Higgins, his wife Sabina Coyne, government minister Katherine Zappone, Ambassador of Ireland to the Holy See Emma Madigan, the Catholic Primate of All Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, the Secretary of State of the Vatican Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Syrian asylum seekers, amongst others. The Pope signed the visitors' book with the following message: "With gratitude for the warm welcome I have received. I assure you and the people of Ireland of my prayers that almighty god may guide and protect you all. Francis". Upon being handed a ceremonial shovel by head gardener Robert Norris, Pope Francis planted a tree in the President's back garden, a tradition which his predecessor Pope John Paul II had also performed nearby.
Then it was off to Dublin Castle. There he met Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who was born in the year of the previous papal visit, and the two sat down together in public. The two had a ten-minute private meeting and Francis signed the castle's visitor book. Gathered in St Patrick's Hall to hear the words of Varadkar and Francis were many Irish dignitaries, including former Taoisigh John Bruton, Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen, former President Mary McAleese (who sat in the front row), Simon Coveney (whom he had met already at Dublin Airport), Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, Minister for Health Simon Harris, Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan, Catherine Byrne, Richard Bruton, Senator David Norris, representatives from the Ulster Unionist Party and the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, Moderator Dr Charles McMullen (leader of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland), the Catholic Primate of All Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, disability rights activist Joanne O'Riordan, Colm O'Gorman and Marie Collins, amongst others. Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster turned down an invitation from the Government of Ireland to attend, saying she would be abroad with her family at the time; she later noted the irony in criticism of her reason given.
Varadkar was invited first to the podium. He commented on what he called "the failures of both church and state" to deal with the sexual abuse scandal, as well as church involvement in the Magdalene Laundries, mother and baby homes and illegal adoptions (then being investigated under the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation) were "stains on our state, our society and also the Catholic church. People kept in dark corners behind closed doors, cries for help that went unheard." He went on to tell the Pope that modern Ireland needed a new covenant for the 21st century to learn from "our shared mistakes". Varadkar also noted far-reaching Irish social changes since the previous 1979 papal visit. He said Ireland was more diverse, less religious with modernised laws on divorce, contraception, abortion and same sex marriage "understanding that marriages do not always work, that women should make their own decisions, and that families come in many different, wonderful forms, including those headed by a grandparent, lone parent or same-sex parents, or parents who are divorced".
Francis, following Varadkar with his own speech (delivered in Italian) at the podium and the first public remarks of his visit, acknowledged the church's lack of action on child sexual abuse, calling it a "grave scandal", but did not address victims' demands for more action to be taken. The pope praised the 20 years of peace between Irish republicans and the United Kingdom which stemmed from the Good Friday Agreement and condemned the long history of sex abuse by Catholic clergy in Ireland.
Following the event at Dublin Castle there were a couple of hours break before the pope resumed his duties.
Then the pope held a silent prayer at the Candle of Innocence, which was dedicated in 2011 to honour victims of sex abuse, in St Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin city centre. Then he visited the Capuchin Day Centre for Homeless People. According to the BBC, crowds in Dublin were one person deep, less than for the St Patrick's Day parade, but including many people from abroad who had come to Ireland especially to see the Pope. The first day of the Pope's visit concluded with a crowd of an estimated 82,500—less than full capacity—attending the Festival of Families at Croke Park where various entertainers, including country music singers, performed. The Festival of Families also featured five testimonies from families in Ireland, Canada, Iraq and Africa.
Day 2: August 26, Sunday
On the morning of his second day in Ireland, Pope Francis flew by Aer Lingus plane into Ireland West Airport in County Mayo and journeyed down the N17 to visit Knock Shrine. Bad weather did not deter crowds of people from turning up to witness the pontiff, with traffic tailbacks of up to eight kilometres around the local area and reports of traffic congestion as early as 5:30 am. The pope addressed approximately 45,000 pilgrims who visited the shrine and held a prayer service inside the shrine's chapel, where he prayed to the Virgin Mary and sought forgiveness for the sex abuse scandals. He returned to Dublin, signing a Mayo GAA jersey (to be put on display at the airport) "Francis" as he boarded his plane.
Back in Dublin Pope Francis celebrated Sunday Mass beneath the Papal Cross in Phoenix Park, recalling Pope John Paul II's visit to Ireland in 1979. In the weeks leading up to the Phoenix Park service it was said that 500,000 would attend; however, fewer than 152,000 attended the service, according to figures from the Office of Public Works. Before returning to Rome, Francis again met with Varadkar, who welcomed the Pope's call for action and forgiveness on clerical sex abuse, but said that Francis had to act on his words.
Before the Pope's arrival there were concerns over disruption due to widespread road closures required to facilitate the Pope, and the estimated cost of €32 million of the visit, the history of physical and sexual abuse in Catholic institutions, and the Catholic Church's opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion and contraception, with former President Mary McAleese describing it as a "right-wing rally".
Coinciding with the Mass on Sunday, around 1,000 people assembled at Tuam's Town Hall in the West of Ireland and walked in silent vigil the 30-minute route to the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in remembrance of those who died or disappeared there. Meanwhile, at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin at the same time, several thousand others were present for "Stand4Truth", held in solidarity with those who had been abused. Some called it a protest, others a space for anyone who felt excluded. It was organized by Colm O'Gorman, head of Amnesty International Ireland, himself a victim of sexual abuse by a priest. There were speeches, and music and then a silent walk to the site of the last Magdalen laundry to close in Ireland, on Sean McDermott Street, asking that it be preserved as a site of conscience, of memory and education.
Viganò's call for resignation
During, but otherwise unconnected with, the papal visit Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a former top Vatican diplomat in the United States and staunch conservative critic of Pope Francis, published a letter calling on Francis to resign, claiming that he was made aware in 2013 of abuse allegations in the US against prominent US Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, but took no action. Viganò said that Pope Benedict XVI had been aware of the abuse allegations and had placed restrictions on McCarrick's movement and public ministry from 2009, and that Pope Francis had lifted these restrictions. However, the New York Times questioned Viganò's allegations. It was pointed out that Pope Benedict XVI did not continue to place restrictions on McCarrick by the year 2012 as Viganò alleged, and that he continued publicly celebrating Mass. One high-profile appearance for McCarrick that year was at Pope Benedict's birthday celebration, where he joined with other bishops to present a birthday cake to the Pope. The Catholic magazine America listed several other public appearances McCarrick made during this time. America listed several reasons the letter seemed credible, including Viganò's inside role in these matters as well as Pope Francis's "lack of progress" and "lack of urgency" regarding sexual abuse, but also listed several reasons to be skeptical about the letter, including Viganò's "perceived hostility toward Pope Francis" for having removed him from his post in 2016, allegedly because Viganò was seen as having "become too enmeshed in U.S. culture wars, particularly regarding same-sex marriage." Viganò also tried to quash the inquiry during Francis's papacy which led to the resignation of John Nienstedt as Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.
An official commemorative medal marking the visit was released., The Dublin Mint Office also released a Celebration medal to mark the Popes visit  The "Lollipope" – a lemon flavoured lolly complete with a picture of the Pope's face - was selling well ahead of the visit. Specially commissioned stamps, Pope Francis fridge magnets, candles, keyrings were also available.
St Patrick's Hall
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