Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he will enter his meeting with Pope Francis with a sense of welcome and respect, but will tell him that the church must admit its own sins.

He said the fact that 750,000 people are going to turn out to see the pope is clear evidence that he is welcome in this country.

However, Mr Varadkar said the Irish people will want him to get the message across that the Catholic Church needs to do more in dealing with child sex abuse.

He said he has never been starstruck while meeting world leaders, and added that while the words of Pope Francis were welcome, actions must flow from those words.

The Taoiseach said there are devout catholics who feel excluded from the church because of the treatment of women, or because they are divorced or from an LGBT background.

"I know that really hurts for them," he said.

Mr Varadkar said he would want to relay that message to Pope Francis, but he wanted to do it in a way that respects religious freedom.

"It's not the role of the head of government to ask any church ... to change its faith," he said.

He said the visit marks a chance for the Catholic Church and the State to begin a new chapter where the church is part of society, but not at the centre of it determining its laws.


Read more: Pope Francis in Ireland


Leo Varadkar said the visit is a chance for the Church and the State to begin a new chapter

Mr Varadkar said yesterday he would try to raise as many issues as possible during his brief meeting with Pope Francis at Dublin Castle on Saturday

He said a number of issues will be discussed with the pontiff. 

Pope Francis is due to meet victims of clerical sexual abuse during his visit.

The pontiff wrote an unprecedented letter to all the world's Catholics on Monday, in which he promised no effort would be spared to prevent clerical sex abuse and its cover-up.

In the letter, the pope condemned abuse, addressed previous failures to deal with the issue and begged for forgiveness for his own sins in relation to the handling of abuse.

"We have realised that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death," he said.

Pope Francis is to address a crowd of around 500,000 people in the Phoenix Park on Sunday as part of the World Meeting of Families.