The Pontiff's reference to sexual abuse was widely expected.

But the references to institutional abuse were flagged less strongly by observers.

Pope asks for forgiveness for abuses of Catholic Church

The acknowledgment of the exploitation of labour can be taken to refer to former residents of industrial schools, Magdalene Laundries and mother and baby homes among other places.

The acknowledgment of abuses of power and conscience are more intriguing because they may be echoes of last Sunday's remarks by the host of the World Meeting of Families, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.

In a homily at Dublin's St Mary's Pro-Cathedral, he said the anger of Catholics here is not just about abuse.

"It is also about a Church that was authoritarian, harsh, autocratic and self-protecting."

"Rather than bringing the liberating message of the love of God, it imposed a world of rules to such an extent that it lacked respect for the personal life of many and especially of women."

In Sunday's address Dr Martin added that Irish Catholics had experienced a Church that felt it knew all the answers.

"We experienced a Church that failed to form mature consciences and help men and women grow in discerning (that is, "judging well to develop"- Joe Little) a mature faith.

"Faith requires rules and norms but there are also occasions where empty rules alienate people from Jesus himself."

In his Phoenix Park statement, Pope Francis has effectively endorsed Archbishop Martin’s understanding of what lies at the heart of many of the Irish church’s problems.

This is in tune with his encouragement of bishops to respond to issues at local level rather than depend on the Vatican to impose its analysis on them.

Since being elected Pope in March 2013, he has repeatedly said that his core calling is as Bishop of Rome and has urged pastors to learn "the smell of their flock", to weep with their followers in their trials and to prioritise mercy and love over the other Christian virtues.