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Pope Francis visits Dublin, a city split by Church sins

Pope Francis visits Dublin, a city split by Church sins

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Devout Catholics and firebrand protestors rubbed shoulders on the streets of Dublin on Saturday as Pope Francis visited the city, stoking fresh debate on the Church and its role in covering up decades of abuse in Ireland.

Supporters lined the streets outside Dublin Castle, cheering the pontiff as he waved back from the rear of a modest Skoda following his meeting with the heads of the Irish government and state.

As bells rang out, Catholics — including a large Spanish contingent draped in flags of their country — waved banners reading “We Heart The Pope” and “Pope Francis, Together We Love You Forever”.

Some youngsters chased the motorcade down the Dublin streets, which were shut to traffic and lined with Irish police and sellers touting Vatican souvenir flags.

But as the crowd thinned out, two women emerged as the centre of attention.

One of them, Rosa Lopez, 45, was holding a banner covered in provocative anti-Pope and anti-Catholic slogans, referencing historic abuse by the church.

“Solidarity With Survivors” and “Pope Not Welcome”, they read.

“There was a crime and it has to be prosecuted,” Lopez, originally from Spain but now a resident of Dublin, told AFP.

“This is an insult to survivors,” she added, in reference to the papal visit.

“He says he’s sorry but it’s not enough.”

– ‘They’re still in denial’ –
Multiple investigations in Ireland have found that Church leaders protected hundreds of predatory priests for decades.

There were also serious abuses in Catholic-run homes and 14,500 former residents of the facilities have applied for compensation under an official government scheme for victims.

Former Irish president Mary McAleese revealed this month she challenged Vatican attempts in 2003 to keep Church documents inaccessible to government investigators.

During the visit, the pope admitted a “failure” by the Church to deal with the abuse scandals that caused him “pain and shame”.

Some older residents of the traditionally Catholic country gave Lopez stern looks as she marched through crowds with her banner aloft, but a man drinking on a terrace gave her a lone round of applause.

Dubliner Anne-Marie Dean, 47, a Catholic volunteering for the pope’s visit with 90 youngsters from a youth group, earlier expressed anxiety over what she saw as growing disrespect towards believers.

“In some ways the Church has gone through a lot in the last few years — we’re talking the last 10 to 20 years,” she said, as she waited for a glimpse of the motorcade.

The debate played out in realtime between a local supporter and Richard Duffy, 31, who was walking the streets carrying a placard demanding “arrest the pope”.

“It just boggles my mind that there’s a celebration for him coming here,” he said.

“They’re still in denial and refusing to admit any fault or give any information that they have on what went wrong here”, he added.

But the local man, who wished to remain anonymous, stopped to defend the Catholic leader.

“How can you apologise for all of that — he’s only one man,” he asked.

“I left the Church years ago and I saw the injustice in it but you don’t have to tarnish everyone.”


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