The Vatican has said Pope Francis will meet victims of clerical sexual abuse during his trip to Ireland this weekend.

The pope is visiting Ireland on 25 and 26 August to attend the Catholic World Meeting of Families in Dublin and will also visit Knock Shrine in Co Mayo.

In a video message to mark the opening of the World Meeting of Families, the Pope expressed hope his visit to Ireland would help grow "unity and reconciliation".

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke told reporters at a briefing today that the meeting with clerical abuse survivors would not be announced until after it was over and that it would be up to those who attend if they want to speak afterwards.

Earlier this month, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said it would be "great" for the pope to meet some of the victims and abuse survivors but "the time is very tight". 

Archbishop Martin said he had been pushing for the pope to meet a small representative group of people but "it is never easy" to do that.

Today's announcement comes after the pontiff published a letter to members of the Catholic Church on clerical sex abuse.

In his 2,000 word-letter, which was published yesterday, he said that no effort would be spared to prevent clerical sex abuse and its cover-up. 

He also addressed previous failures to deal with the issue. Victims' groups have expressed disappointment, saying reform was what was needed not promises.

Mr Burke said the pontiff wanted greater accountability not only for those who committed these crimes but also for those who covered them up which, in many cases, meant bishops.

He said the letter was an admission that the church's response to child abuse had been slow.

One in Four, an organisation that helps sexual abuse survivors, has called on the pope to immediately put in place a system of mandatory reporting across the Catholic Church.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, One in Four Chief Executive Maeve Lewis said that this would mean that when disclosures of abuse are made within the church, church authorities would immediately inform the civil authorities.

She said she was disappointed and frustrated by the pope's letter to the world's Catholics yesterday.

Ms Lewis said that while she had no doubt that the apology was very sincere, it was only one of a long series of apologies from the Vatican and other church leaders over the years.

"There is not one concrete step that the pope mentions in that letter that would really address the problem of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church," she said.

"So it is very easy to apologise; it is much harder to put in place the protocols and the canon laws that would hold every bishop, every cardinal accountable for protecting and shielding sex offenders within the church."


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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he would like to see the Catholic Church adopt a policy of mandatory reporting of child sex abuse in all countries.

He welcomed the pope's letter yesterday but said action must follow words now.

Catholic Bishop of Raphoe Alan McGuckian said the pope must take the next step and make sure that church law ensures accountability for church leaders on the issue of clerical sex abuse.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Bishop McGuckian said it had been a learning process in the Catholic Church and in civil society.

He said he did not know why it was taking the Vatican so long to come up with structures to hold its bishops to account.

"I don't know why it’s taking it so long, but I do believe that that is what Pope Francis is moving towards and should move towards," he said.

Asked about whether there was any evidence of this, Bishop McGuckian said: "I too felt when I read the letter that I wanted something more concrete, but by Pope Francis' actions in recent months he has shown that in one specific case where he did become clearly and unambiguously aware of that kind of failure on the part of bishops, he has acted ... and I believe he will act."

He was referring to the pope's summoning of all 34 Chilean bishops to the Vatican last month following his statement that he had been misinformed by the church authorities in the country.

In January, he accused survivors' advocates of lying about one bishop who concealed clerical child sex abuse but following a Vatican investigation invited survivors to Rome to apologise to them personally.

To date, the resignations of five Chilean bishops over the scandal have been accepted.


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