Pope says he shares outrage over clergy abuse cover-up

DUBLIN (AP) — Pope Francis said at the start of a visit to Ireland on Saturday that he shares the outrage of rank-and-file Catholics over the failure of church authorities to punish the "repugnant crimes" of priests who raped and molested children.

Seeking to respond to a global outcry over the abuse scandal, Francis cited measures taken by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, to respond to the crisis. But Benedict never acknowledged the Vatican's role in fueling a culture of cover-up, and Francis provided no new details of any measures he would take to sanction bishops who fail to protect their flocks.

"The failure of ecclesial authorities — bishops, religious superiors, priests and others — to adequately address these repugnant crimes has rightly given rise to outrage, and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community. I myself share these sentiments," the pope said in a speech to government and civil authorities at Dublin Castle.

Adding to his prepared remarks, Francis said he was committed to ridding the church of this "scourge" no matter the moral cost or amount of suffering.

Francis trip has been overshadowed by renewed outrage over the Catholic Church's systemic failures to protect children following revelations of sexual misconduct and cover-up in the U.S. church hierarchy, a growing crisis in Chile and prosecutions of top clerics in Australia and France.

RELATED: Ireland gets ready for Pope's visit

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Ireland prepares for Pope Francis
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Ireland prepares for Pope Francis
Redemptoristine nuns Sister Petra Maria (R) and Sister Ivana prepare communion wafers during production of altar breads ahead of Pope Francis' visit to Ireland, at the Monastery of St Alphonsus in Dublin, Ireland August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Redemptoristine nun Sister Petra Maria prepares uncut sheets of communion wafers during production of altar breads ahead of Pope Francis' visit to Ireland, at the Monastery of St Alphonsus in Dublin, Ireland August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Sister Angela Finegan looks out of the church window at St Mary's Abbey, a Cistercian monastery that is an enclosed contemplative order of nuns in Glencairn, Ireland, August 18, 2018. "I am so excited about the day, to be in the presence of this good and holy leader of our Church (Pope Francis) and surrounded by people of faith and lovers of God. It will be a great joy and blessing. Especially in the days when the presence of God and the life of the Church are hidden in our fast-paced society," said Sister Angela. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Redemptoristine nuns Sister Petra Maria (R) and Sister Ivana prepare communion wafers during production of altar breads ahead of Pope Francis' visit to Ireland, at the Monastery of St Alphonsus in Dublin, Ireland August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Pilgrims ascend and descend Croagh Patrick holy mountain during an annual Catholic pilgrimage near Lecanvey, Ireland, July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Names spelled out in stones are laid out on the side of Croagh Patrick holy mountain during an annual Catholic pilgrimage near Lecanvey, Ireland, July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Sister Angela Finegan mops the church floor at St Mary's Abbey, a Cistercian monastery that is an enclosed contemplative order of nuns in Glencairn, Ireland, August 18, 2018. "I am so excited about the day, to be in the presence of this good and holy leader of our Church (Pope Francis) and surrounded by people of faith and lovers of God. It will be a great joy and blessing. Especially in the days when the presence of God and the life of the Church are hidden in our fast-paced society," said Sister Angela. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Sister Marie Fahy reads at her desk in St Mary's Abbey, a Cistercian monastery that is an enclosed contemplative order of nuns in Glencairn, Ireland, August 18, 2018. "The Pope is the earthly head of the Church, the Vicar of Christ. His visit means that he wants to support, guide and encourage the Irish Church. I believe his message will be one of inspiration, direction and advice for the people of God in Ireland," said Sister Marie. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Sister Marie Fahy walks through the farm in St Mary's Abbey, a Cistercian monastery that is an enclosed contemplative order of nuns in Glencairn, Ireland, August 18, 2018. "The Pope is the earthly head of the Church, the Vicar of Christ. His visit means that he wants to support, guide and encourage the Irish Church. I believe his message will be one of inspiration, direction and advice for the people of God in Ireland," said Sister Marie. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
A religious grotto that lights up at night and is also a traffic roundabout, stands in the city centre in Dublin, Ireland, August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Brendan O'Connor who lives beside Phoenix Park, sits in his yard in Dublin, Ireland, July 18, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Sister Kathleen carries a pot of tea at St Mary's Abbey, a Cistercian monastery that is an enclosed contemplative order of nuns in Glencairn, Ireland, August 18, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Shopkeeper Bernie Byrne, 74, looks out from his shop at the National Marian Shrine town of Knock, Ireland, July 23, 2018. Byrne's grandfather Dominic was one of at least twenty-two people that claimed to see Mary, Joseph and John the Evangelist hovering near the gable end of the local church in the western Irish village of Knock on a rainy evening in August 1879. "Houses are being painted and streets are being scrubbed... trying to get everything ready for him (Pope Francis), even though it's only a short visit," said Byrne, who like his brother Tom, runs a small shop selling religious goods to the 1.5 million pilgrims that come to Knock each year. "Because he is such a humble man, and a nice man, everybody is dying to have a look at him." REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
A souvenir lollipop called a 'Lollipope' is seen in Dublin, Ireland, August 15, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
A statue of the Virgin Mary stands in O'Devaney Gardens beside Phoenix Park in Dublin, Ireland, July 18, 2018. The 1950's complex's statue of Mary is tended to by Joe Towell who lives nearby to O'Devaney Gardens flats. While some locals' cars have been stolen and homes broken into, nobody touches Mary, he says. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Pope Francis bunting decorates a street in the city centre of Dublin, Ireland, August 13, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
A statue of Pope Francis stands in a shop window in the National Marian Shrine town of Knock, Ireland, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Women from a haberdashery shop hold up their new Pope Francis Ireland flag in Louth, Ireland, June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
A statue of the Virgin Mary looks out from a shop at the National Marian Shrine town of Knock, Ireland, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Joe Towell, 68, sits with his mother who lives with him at his home in Dublin, Ireland, July 18, 2018. Excited about the visit of "another extraordinary type of pope", he sees Francis as bridging a generational gap that has opened between the conservative and liberal wings of the church. "He's still preaching the same gospel as they've all been preaching. He's just got a little more understanding of the present way people are feeling," Towell said. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Heart-shaped gravestones of boys who died in a Christian Brothers' industrial school lie in a graveyard in Letterfrack, Ireland, July 24, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
A religious grotto featuring a statue of the Virgin Mary holding a Pope Francis prayer card and several sets of rosary beads stands on the roadside near the county Mayo town of Claremorris, Ireland, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
The stage where Pope Frances will lead Mass for over half a million people is under construction at the Phoenix Park in Dublin, Ireland, August 13, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Pilgrims attend Mass at the summit of Croagh Patrick holy mountain during an annual Catholic pilgrimage near Lecanvey, Ireland, July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
A station of the cross is partly hidden by undergrowth at a roadside in the Connemara village of Letterfrack, Ireland, July 24, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
A nun stands in front of a scene of the crucifix of Jesus in the Marian Shrine town of Knock, Ireland, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
A child cycles past a roadside sign reading 'Jesus I trust in you' near Tuam, Ireland, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Pilgrims attend Mass at the summit of Croagh Patrick holy mountain during an annual Catholic pilgrimage near Lecanvey, Ireland, July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Pilgrims ascend and descend Croagh Patrick holy mountain during an annual Catholic pilgrimage near Lecanvey, Ireland, July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
A young pilgrim reads on Croagh Patrick holy mountain during an annual Catholic pilgrimage near Lecanvey, Ireland, July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Pilgrims attend Mass at the summit of Croagh Patrick holy mountain during an annual Catholic pilgrimage near Lecanvey, Ireland, July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
A pilgrim descends Croagh Patrick holy mountain barefoot during an annual Catholic pilgrimage near Lecanvey, Ireland, July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Pilgrims ascend and descend Croagh Patrick holy mountain during an annual Catholic pilgrimage near Lecanvey, Ireland, July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
A pilgrim is blessed by the newly ordained Father Gerard Quirke after Mass at the summit of Croagh Patrick holy mountain during an annual Catholic pilgrimage near Lecanvey, Ireland, July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
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Francis was expected to meet with victims during his 36-hour visit to Ireland. But neither his words at the start of his visit nor a new meeting with victims is likely to assuage demands for heads to roll over the scandal.

Perhaps in an indication of popular sentiments, the reception Francis received in Dublin contrasted sharply with the raucous, rock star welcome that greeted St. John Paul II in 1979. No one from the general public was on hand at the airport or the roads nearby, and only a handful of people waited to cheer him outside the Vatican residence, despite gloriously sunny weekend weather.

Deeply Catholic Ireland has had one of the world's worst records of clergy sex abuse, crimes that were revealed to its 4.8 million people over the past decade by a series of government-mandated inquiries. The reviews concluded that thousands of children were raped and molested by priests and physically abused in church-run schools, and exposed bishops who worked to hide the crimes.

After the Irish church atoned for its past and enacted tough new norms to fight abuse, it had been looking to the first visit by a pope in 40 years to show a different, more caring church that understands the problems of ordinary Catholic families today.

More than 37,000 people — most of them young Catholics — signed up to attend a Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families that ends Sunday in Dublin, more than twice the number as for the previous family rally held in Philadelphia three years ago.

And many faithful remained hopeful that Francis' appearance would bring healing.

"I see a lot of new life amongst young people who have a deep committed faith, Catholic faith," said Sean Ascogh, a churchgoer at a recent service in Blessington southwest of Dublin. "Obviously, they are very disappointed by what has been happening in the church in the last few years, particularly the whole abuse scandals, but I think people can see beyond that."

Francis urged the Irish to do just that, to recognize that for all its failings, the Catholic Church has educated and cared for generations of Irish children in times of famine and great poverty, when no one else would.

"The church in Ireland, past and present, has played a role in the welfare of children that cannot be obscured," the pope said. "It is my hope that the gravity of the abuse scandals, which have cast light on the failings of so many, will serve to emphasize the importance of the protection of minors and vulnerable adults on the part of society as a whole."

RELATED: See more of the Pope's visit

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Pope arrives in Ireland
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Pope arrives in Ireland
Pope Francis is pictured as he leaves Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Pope Francis leaves Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Pope Francis smiles next to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis is welcomed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis speaks at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis is greeted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis presents a gift to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis speaks during his meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis is greeted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis signs a visitors book next to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis arrives at Dublin International Airport, at the start of his two-day visit to Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Pope Francis is greeted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis is greeted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
A monk reacts next to the officer from Ireland's Garda (Police), in Dublin, Ireland August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Pope Francis speaks in St Patricks Hall in Dublin Castle in Dublin on August 25, 2018, during his visit to Ireland to attend the 2018 World Meeting of Families. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP) (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar (R) shows the way to Pope Francis in St Patricks Hall in Dublin Castle in Dublin on August 25, 2018, during his visit to Ireland to attend the 2018 World Meeting of Families. - Pope Francis said he shared in the 'shame and pain' of the Catholic Church's 'failure' to deal with years of sexual abuse scandals as he began a historic two-day visit to Ireland on Saturday. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP) (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - AUGUST 25: Pope Francis leaves after meeting dignitaries at Dublin Castle on August 25, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. Pope Francis is the 266th Catholic Pope and current sovereign of the Vatican. His visit, the first by a Pope since John Paul II's in 1979, is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of Catholics to a series of events in Dublin and Knock. During his visit he will have private meetings with victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - AUGUST 25: Pope Francis leaves after meeting dignitaries at Dublin Castle on August 25, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. Pope Francis is the 266th Catholic Pope and current sovereign of the Vatican. His visit, the first by a Pope since John Paul II's in 1979, is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of Catholics to a series of events in Dublin and Knock. During his visit he will have private meetings with victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Pope Francis (L) and Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar walk into St Patricks Hall in Dublin Castle in Dublin on August 25, 2018, during his visit to Ireland to attend the 2018 World Meeting of Families. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP) (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
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But Ireland's tortured history of abuse has left its mark.

In a country where Catholic bishops held such sway that they advised the drafters of the republic's constitution in the 1930s, voters in recent years have turned their backs on core Catholic teachings. They have overturned a constitutional ban on abortion, and legalized divorce, contraception, previously banned homosexual acts and same-sex marriage.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who will welcome Francis at Dublin Castle on Saturday, is openly gay.

Irish abuse victims and their supporters were expected to hold a solidarity rally Sunday in Dublin, at the same time Francis is celebrating his final Mass to close out the family conference.

Separately, survivors of Ireland's wretched "mother and baby homes" — where children were exiled for the shame of having been born to unwed mothers — are holding their own demonstration Sunday. The location is Tuam, site of a mass grave of hundreds of babies who died over the years at a church-run home.

Francis will be nearby, visiting the Marian shrine at Knock, but has no plans to visit the grave site.

In his inaugural speech, Francis referred euphemistically to the plight of Irish women who were forced for generations to work in laundries or other workhouses because they got pregnant outside of marriage, saying only that they "endured particularly difficult situations."

When John Paul visited Ireland in 1979, in the first-ever papal visit, some 1.25 million people turned out for his inaugural Mass in Phoenix Park, a third of the country's population and the largest gathering in Irish history at the time.

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