Pope's visit

Pope Francis faces greatest challenges in clerical sex abuse scandals

Pope Francis will arrive in Dublin on Saturday. Picture by AP
Michael McHugh, Press Association

When the Pope celebrates Mass before half a million people in Dublin on Sunday, the relics of one of his greatest inspirations will be situated nearby.

Francis has expressed devotion for the late 19th century Saint Therese of Lisieux, who was renowned for showing great love and doing good, and whose remains have been taken to the Republic for the visit.

Many of the pontiff's years of ministry have been dedicated to doing good for the poor in his native Argentina.

Pope Francis was the first leader of the Catholic Church to hail from the Americas.

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He is a member of the Jesuit Order, the missionary Society of Jesus charged with taking the gospel to "every corner of the globe".

While Archbishop of Buenos Aires from 1998, Jorge Bergoglio travelled around the capital by bus and was described as a "simple pastor", the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said.

The son of Italian immigrants rose to prominence in Argentina after strongly criticising capitalism during a financial crisis which rocked the country in 2001.

His representations on the treatment of the poor came despite the Church's long-standing opposition to godless Marxism.

He regularly visited the slums around Buenos Aires and emphasised the importance of social outreach.

Bergoglio led the Jesuits during the years when a military junta held power in Argentina and has opened up Vatican archives to victims of the ruthless regime.

The Pope has defended the rights of the children of single mothers to baptism but also criticised his home country's decision to legalise gay marriage.

His spare lifestyle has been described as almost ascetic.

He shunned an ornate mansion in Buenos Aires.

Upon his election as Pope in 2013 as an outside bet he eschewed the grand Apostolic Palace.

Francis instead lived in the Vatican guesthouse and was driven around in a Ford Focus.

His papacy has enjoyed high popularity ratings, with almost 18 million followers on Twitter.

He was seen as largely socially liberal but conservative on sexual issues, opposing female priests, gay marriage and abortion.

A papal declaration 50 years ago that artificial birth control is wrong has not been repudiated.

The Pope has said the Church should apologise to gay people for the way it has treated them.

He has attempted to reform the Vatican bureaucracy known as the Curia, tackle corruption in the Vatican bank and address the legacy of child sex abuse.

Countless revelations of clerical sex scandals around the world, the US, Chile, Ireland, have arguably presented the greatest challenge to this politically astute leader.

The Pope has apologised for "grave errors" in how the Catholic Church handled sex abuse in Chile, where a bishop was accused of covering up the crimes of another priest.

Earlier this month a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailed decades of sexual abuse by priests and cover-up by bishops.

The Vatican expressed "shame and sorrow" but the Pope is almost certain to face more protests about decades of clerical sex abuse in Ireland which have seriously damaged the Church's reputation there.

Campaigners will want to know whether the Pope's devotion to Saint Therese translates into true love for a section of the faithful who have suffered grievous wrong in Ireland.

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Pope's visit

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