Leading article

Pope must address abuse scandals that have damaged Catholic Church in Ireland

Today Pope Francis lands in an Ireland that has changed enormously since Pope John Paul II stepped onto the tarmac at Dublin Airport in September 1979.

It has to be acknowledged that the Pope's visit this weekend is an occasion of huge significance and large crowds are expected to attend what is a packed schedule of events in Dublin and Knock.

But there is an acceptance that the vast numbers and overwhelming enthusiasm that swept Ireland 39 years ago belong to a different time, one where the Catholic Church held a powerful position in the life of the state and in the lives of ordinary Catholics for whom faith and devotion were integral to their very being.

Catholics today are more willing to question the Church's teachings, to challenge its actions and its role in society.

That can only be regarded as a healthy development, but it also reflects the dramatic decline in the reputation of a Church that set the moral standards for the lives of Catholic families.

The shattering of trust and the loss of moral authority has profoundly weakened the institutional Church, its influence has waned considerably, as we have seen from falling Mass attendance and the votes in favour of social change in the Republic.

Attitudes are changing and at a relatively swift pace but it would be unrealistic to expect a massive institution such as the Catholic Church to do likewise.

What the Pope's attendance at the World Meeting of Families has done is place a focus on the role of the Church in today's world, to open up discussion on issues such as married priests, the ordination of women, attitudes towards the LGBT community and the involvement of laity.

Pope Francis has gained respect for his style of leadership and personal example in terms of his determination to lead a simpler life, showing particular compassion for those most marginalised in society, those who are homeless or in poverty.

It is clear he wants to see a Church where priests and religious work at a grassroots level with those who need care and practical support as well as spiritual nourishment. ''Be poor among the poor,'' as he has put it.

For the faithful attending events today and tomorrow, this is a joyful time and the Pope's presence will be warmly welcomed and his message eagerly awaited.

Also waiting to hear Pope Francis will be the survivors of clerical abuse, some of whom he will meet during his trip.

This is an important meeting but the Pope will hopefully add to his statement earlier this week on the sexual abuse of children.

Given the wicked actions of so many clergy over decades, victims will look to Pope Francis to take a more robust approach towards the abusers and those who covered up their crimes.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe from just £1 for the first month to get full access

Leading article

Today's horoscope


See a different horoscope: