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Meeting with victims is significant says Vatican ahead of Pope's visit


People gather in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican (Andrew Medichini/AP)

People gather in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican (Andrew Medichini/AP)

People gather in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican (Andrew Medichini/AP)

The Vatican has insisted that the meeting in Dublin between the Pope and Irish survivors of clerical abuse does have vital meaning.

It came as senior Church officials refused to publicly criticise Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for his intervention in the controversy over how the Church dealt with abuse cases.

Mr Varadkar, in an eve-of-papal visit comment, said that the Church must now admit its sins and face up to historic abuse issues. The Taoiseach said he welcomed comments from Pope Francis about the controversy - but he said the first thing he will tell the pontiff after welcoming him to Ireland is that actions must follow words.

"We don't know it (the true scale of the abuse scandal) from the Church admitting its own sins," Mr Varadkar said.

"I think that would be a very good place to start." The Vatican insisted that the Dublin meeting offered by Pope Francis to a number of abuse survivors was very significant. The meeting is private, and not listed on the two-day papal agenda.

Survivors have been informed they are free to comment about the meeting after it concludes.

The Vatican dismissed suggestions that such meetings had been effectively meaningless. He said: "We have to see that the problems (involved) are horrendous."

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It said that Ireland was a very special case given the context of what had happened.

The Vatican acknowledged that it was a very difficult issue for everyone involved.

"There is no consolation in this," it added.

While the Vatican has carefully steered clear of controversy over Mr Varadkar's comments, some within the Irish Church are deeply unhappy at how the comments have fuelled the negative tone over only Ireland's second papal visit in history. "It was unnecessary," one source said.

Others within the Church in Ireland privately expressed deep annoyance.

They warned that the comments threaten to overshadow the benefits of hosting the prestigious World Meeting of Families (WMOF).

Campaigner for abuse survivor rights Tom Cronin warned that it should be remembered the State was also responsible for some of the horrific abuse and exploitation through the support of industrial schools.

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