Pope Francis is likely to meet with victims of clerical sexual abuse later this week, a papal spokesman announced on Tuesday. The proposed meeting would take place as part of the Holy Father’s two-day trip to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families.
In a briefing to journalists ahead of the papal trip to Dublin Aug. 25-26, spokesman Greg Burke said that if the encounter takes place, its purpose will be for the pope to listen to victims, and that it will be done privately, with no details released until afterward.
The possible meeting between the pope and victims would follow the same pattern as Francis’ meeting with victims of clerical sexual abuse in Chile during his visit to the country in January 2018, that meeting was also unscheduled.
Though Francis is traveling to Dublin for the conclusion of the 2018 World Meeting of Families, Burke, who is the director of the Holy See press office, told journalists the pope is aware that any visit to Ireland cannot only address that event, though it will be his primary focus.
Following almost two months of limited audiences and appointments for the summer break, “the pope is well-rested and ready, and wants to talk about the family,” Burke said, according to a Catholic News Agency report.
On the question of whether Francis will explicitly address the result of the May referendum which legalized abortion in the country, or the issue of clerical sexual abuse, Burke said it remains to be seen. Burke did underscore that the pope will give a total of six speeches over the two days, and that there will certainly be the “opportunity, or possibility” that these subjects would be addressed.
Francis’ schedule for the weekend already includes a moment of prayer for clerical sexual abuse victims, which will take place during his stop at St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral. There he will also meet with recently-married couples, speaking with them and taking a few questions.
Along the road to St. Mary’s, the pope will stop to venerate a relic of Venerable Matt Talbot, a simple Irish laborer who died in Dublin in 1925.
Other papal appointments Aug. 25 include a meeting with Ireland’s president and political leaders, members of civil society, and diplomatic corps; and a visit to a Capuchin-run day center for homeless families.
As is his habit, Francis will also have a private meeting with local Jesuits at the apostolic nunciature on Saturday.
One of two major public events will be the Festival of Families, held at Croke Park, which will include testimonies from families around the world, as well as singing and dancing performances – including from world-renowned Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.
On the morning of Aug. 26, the pope will fly to Ireland’s Knock Shrine, where 15 people saw a vision of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. John, and the Lamb of God in 1879.
After returning to Dublin, he will celebrate the closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families in Phoenix Park, where Pope St. John Paul II celebrated Mass during his apostolic visit – as the first pope to visit Ireland – in 1979.
The location of the next World Meeting of Families, typically held every three years, will be announced at the end of the Mass by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, who is head of the Vatican dicastery on laity, family, and life.