When Pope John II came to Ireland in 1979 he was given rock star treatment by over 2.7 million people. Contrast that with Pope Francis’s visit at the weekend, when fewer that 130,000 of an expected 500,000 attended a Mass in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.
And to reinforce the message that country has shattered the chains that once bound it so tightly to a church which imagined itself to be above reproach, thousands gathered three miles away at the Garden of Remembrance to hear survivors of abuse and others rattle off a long list of crimes committed against the people of Ireland by the Catholic clergy.
One speaker at the Stand4Truth rally – dressed as a nun with bloodied hands – said:
As the mother of gay children I will not allow any church to tell my fucking children that they don’t matter, because they do.
According to this report, Jenny Moore-Mcgowan, holding a sign that read: “Apologies are not enough”, said:
We can never, ever, ever have these abuses again in Ireland. The lives of people for generations were ruined, not just the people who were in the institutional schools, the Magdalene Laundries, the mother-and-baby homes, but their children and grandchildren. It ran right through this country like a virus.
The Pope’s visit to Ireland came amid an intensifying outcry over a global clerical sex abuse crisis, following damning reports in the United States, Chile and Australia, detailing decades of institutional cover-ups. The revelations hung like a cloud over the trip.
In Temple Bar, a nightlife quarter packed with pubs, you wouldn’t know the Pope was in town, save for a few fluttering Vatican flags and shuttered streets. At one of the few papal souvenir stands in the city center, Paul Preston said he was having trouble selling merchandise. He said:
People aren’t coming out to support the Pope in droves like they did in ’79. The church’s influence since then has gone kaput. People are disenchanted with all the controversies, all the sexual scandals.
The Pope needs to take responsibility for the actions of his clergy. Although he hopefully hasn’t had any involvement in the abuse, he is the figurehead for the church, so it’s his responsibility to promise action and retribution for the people who have been wronged.
Just hours before celebrating Mass, Pope Francis faced calls for his resignation from the former Vatican ambassador to Washington, who said the Pontiff did nothing about allegations of sexual abuse against the prominent Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, despite knowing about them in 2013.
Later, speaking to the press on his flight back to Italy from Ireland, Pope Francis said, “I will not say a single word on this,” although he added that after some time passes, “I may speak.”
The Pope told reporters he believes the statement from former Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano speaks for itself.
I read the statement this morning, and I must tell you sincerely … read the statement carefully and make your own judgment.
In his homily on Sunday, the Pope acknowledged “abuses of power and conscience” in Ireland, and asked for forgiveness for all the times the church did not provide survivors with compassion, justice, truth, or “concrete actions.”
At the Stand4Truth rally, Belfast singer Brian Kennedy performed a rendition of a John Lennon classic with a new verse added: “Imagine there’s no paedophiles.” In a moment of levity, the crowd, which had been largely somber, broke into laughter and cheered, waving their placards aloft.