Around 37,000 people are expected to attend the World Meeting of Families event in Dublin this week

"The Pope's visit to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families is historic and and will be welcomed by a great many people and I look forward to hearing what he has to say about a range of social issues".

Paul Redmond, who was born in a Catholic mother and baby home, said the pope had described the cover-up of abuse as "caca", or excrement.

A Vatican spokesman had no comment on the details of what was said in the meeting. And Ireland's church attendance has waned from 90% to about 30% as revelations of abuse by Catholic-run institutions continue to damage its moral authority and diminish its influence.

The Church's role has been badly dented by abuse scandals and the Irish have shed traditional mores, voting earlier this year to legalise abortion after approving same-sex marriage in 2015.

He was accompanied by the prime minister of Ireland, Leo Varadkar, with whom he met in private for a few minutes.

"Magdalene Laundries, mother-and-baby homes, industrial schools, illegal adoptions and clerical child abuse are stains on our state, our society and also the Catholic Church", he said, referring to a series of scandals that have rocked the Irish Church. 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 sex abuse scandal.

In the evening, he will join pilgrims at a musical festival in the landmark Croke Park Gaelic Athletic Association stadium.


Meanwhile gardaí are urging all attending the Papal Mass in the Phoenix Park on Sunday to enter and leave using the colour coded routes as outlined as on their tickets.

Pope Francis will also pray for abuse victims before a candle in St Mary's cathedral in Dublin on Saturday.

A damning report last week into abuse in the USA state of Pennsylvania, combined with scandals in Australia and Chile, have formed what one Vatican official called "a flawless storm" and already overshadowed a trip where the main goal is to close a week-long global Catholic gathering.

When his Alitalia plane arrived Saturday morning, he was greeted on the tarmac with a bouquet of posies, then traveled in a motorcade to the presidential residence, where he wrote in the guest book, "With gratitude for the warm welcome I have received".

More than a million people gathered for the papal Mass in Phoenix Park on that occasion, according to the Irish Times, representing about a third of the country's population at the time.

The abuse scandal - which has exploded anew in the US but has convulsed Ireland since the 1990s with revelations of unfathomable violence and humiliation against women and children - took centre stage on the first day of Francis' two-day trip.

Critics of the Church have also been preparing for Francis.


This is normal procedure for when the Pope meets victims of clergy abuse during his trips outside Rome. Varadkar acknowledged the Catholic Church had provided generations of Catholics with education and health care when the Irish government did not.

Still, pictures of the pope were on the front pages of every newspaper on Saturday and there was excitement among some on Dublin's streets as the city center prepared to go on lockdown.

On the first papal visit to the country in nearly four decades, Francis used a speech at a state event that was also attended by some abuse survivors to acknowledge that it was to the Church's shame it had not addressed these "repugnant crimes".

The protest invites anyone who has "been harmed or abused by the Roman Catholic Church or who wishes to stand in solidarity with those harmed by its actions" to join the event at 3 pm at The Garden of Remembrance in Dublin.

Priests and nuns from across Ireland have flocked to the capital, although merchandise sellers said business was sluggish.

On Monday, Francis noted the "heart-wrenching pain" of victims following a Pennsylvania grand jury report that detailed decades of sexual misconduct by priests and repeated failures by bishops to hold priests accountable.


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