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Pope Arrives In Ireland After New Report On Sex Abuse In U.S.


Pope Francis is in Ireland this weekend. Pope John Paul II was the last pontiff to visit in 1979. Francis is under pressure from yet another clerical sex abuse scandal. This one involved a cover-up and more than 1,000 victims in Pennsylvania. In his remarks today, the pope acknowledged the pain, globally and in Ireland, from abusive priests as well as workhouses for unwed mothers. NPR's Frank Langfitt joins us now from Dublin. Frank, thanks for being with us.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hey, good morning, Scott.

SIMON: And what specifically did the pope say?

LANGFITT: Well, you know, he talked briefly about the ongoing crisis in the church and how much the faithful had suffered around the world. Here's a bit of what he had to say.


POPE FRANCIS: (Through interpreter) The failure of the ecclesiastical authorities - bishops, religious superiors, priests and others - adequately to address these repellent crimes has given rise to, quite rightly, outrage and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community.

SIMON: And, Frank, how were those remarks received by sex abuse victims and their advocates?

LANGFITT: Not well, Scott. We were actually sitting in a bar here and watching at a pub - watching the pope's speech with a number of sexual abuse survivors. They felt they heard these words before. They found the language euphemistic. There was one fellow I talked to, Pete Saunders from the U.K. He was actually on the pope's commission to protect minors. And here was his reaction.

PETE SAUNDERS: The moment - the moment he started to talk about the rape and abuse of women and children as a difficult situation, then I knew that we were going to hear nothing but platitudes and an avoidance of tackling this issue.

SIMON: Frank, what would the survivors prefer the pope would have said?

LANGFITT: Well, you know, this has been going on for a really long time. And they're very frustrated in the sense that they've been hearing this for many years in terms of the sorrow of the Vatican. But they really want to hear and want to see - they really want to see action. They would like to see, frankly, the Vatican work very, very closely and open up all of its - all the information that criminal prosecutors and certainly people who've filed lawsuits are looking for.

I was also at this pub with a fellow named Tom Doyle. He was actually an expert witness in the grand jury proceedings in that recent Pennsylvania case that you mentioned. And he said what he wanted to see was the pope really take a tough line against bishops. Here's how he put it.

THOMAS DOYLE: The biggest part of this problem isn't the priests that sexually violate kids. It's the bishops and the archbishops who covered it up, who lie about it. They're the ones that really - and if the pope wants to take definite action, he should fire every one of them.

SIMON: And, Frank, what else is going to be on tap for the pope this weekend? If I might put it this way, what kind of reception would you anticipate he might receive?

LANGFITT: Well, it's going to be very interesting. You know, as you mentioned, John Paul II, when he was here in 1979, it was enormous. Now, he went to more events, but he drew enormous crowds. Of course, today it's a very different Ireland from that time - far fewer people. Mass attendance has gone for about 80 percent to somewhere in the mid-30s - weekly Mass attendance. So we're not expected to see anywhere near the kinds of crowds that we would have seen back at that time.

Tomorrow, there will be a big Mass at Phoenix Park here in Dublin. It's expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people. The pope is actually - also came by here, just a moment ago, about hour or two ago. And there were hundreds out on the streets to cheer him on, very happy to see him. Even though this is not that much of a Catholic - as much of a Catholic country as it was before, we do think that there are going to be a lot of faithful coming out who still like him personally and still feel a connection to the church and the faith.

SIMON: NPR's Frank Langfitt in Dublin, thanks so much for being with us.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF SINDRANDI'S "NUNA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.