Pope Francis has lamented the lack of vocations in Ireland, admitting recent scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church have turned potential priests away.

He was speaking at his general audience in the Vatican following his two-day visit to Ireland for the end of the World Meeting of Families.

"Ireland has a great faith, but few vocations to the priesthood, do you know why?" he asked.

"This is due in part to this problem, to the scandal and several other things."

The pontiff said his visit to Ireland brought him joy, but that he also "tasted the pain and bitterness" caused by clerical abuse.

"Alongside the joy of my visit to Ireland, I also tasted the pain and bitterness caused by various abuses caused by members of the church in that country ... in the past ecclesial authorities did not know how to respond in an adequate way to these crimes."

Pope Francis privately met eight victims of clerical, religious and institutional abuse during his visit.

He told the audience that Irish bishops had undertaken a "serious path of purification and reconciliation" and were working with the State to ensure the safety of young people.

Pressure on Pope Francis increased on Sunday when a former top Vatican official accused him of having known about allegations of sex abuse by a prominent US cardinal for five years before accepting his resignation last month.

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