Irish premier Leo Varadkar urged the pope to ensure justice for abuse victims worldwide in a blistering criticism of the Church’s legacy in Ireland where Francis began a two-day visit on Saturday.
“Wounds are still open and there is much to be done to bring about justice and truth and healing for victims and survivors. Holy Father, I ask that you use your office and influence to ensure that this is done here in Ireland and across the world,” Varadkar said standing next to the pontiff.
“We must now ensure that from words flow actions,” he said.
Vardkar referred to multiple abuse scandals in Ireland, calling them “stains” on the Catholic Church, the state and society as a whole that had left “a legacy of pain and suffering”.
“This is a shared history of sorrow and shame,” he said.
Varadkar, who is openly gay, also referred to Ireland’s reform of laws on divorce, same-sex marriage and abortion.
Ireland understands “that marriages do not always work, that women should make their own decisions, and that families come in many forms including those headed by a grandparent, a lone parent or same-sex parents or parents who are divorced,” he said.
He called for “a new relationship between Church and state in Ireland a new covenant for the 21st century”.
“Building on our intertwined history, and learning from our shared mistakes, it can be one in which religion is perhaps no longer at the centre of our society, but in which it still has an important place.”
In his speech, Varadkar also praised the role of the Catholic Church in helping the vulnerable in Ireland.
“Even today, as we struggle with a housing shortage and homelessness, Catholic organisations and people inspired by their Catholic faith fill a gap in providing services,” he said.
Varadkar is due to meet with abuse victims and visit a Catholic-run centre for homeless families in Dublin later on Saturday.