Pope Francis. File photo
Image: REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

Pope Francis begged in Ireland on Sunday for God’s forgiveness for the child sexual abuse scandal rocking the church, but faced accusations by a former Vatican official that he had personally ignored allegations against senior clergy.

Francis spoke in front of about 500,000 faithful in Dublin’s Phoenix Park as part of his two-day visit to the former Catholic stronghold of Ireland, as abuse victims and their supporters gathered in a “Stand for Truth” rally in the city centre to demand justice.

Earlier during Sunday’s address to 45,000 supporters at the rain-soaked Knock shrine in the west of the country, the pope begged for God’s forgiveness for the open wound of the scandal and demanded firm and decisive measures.

The scandal has dogged the visit, and intensified overnight when a former Vatican envoy to the US accused Francis of personally ignoring sexual abuse claims against prominent US cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was forced to resign in July.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano wrote in a letter published in the National Catholic Register that he had told Francis of the allegations in 2013, but that he had responded by lifting sanctions imposed on McCarrick by predecessor Pope Benedict.

“He knew from at least June 23 2013 that McCarrick was a serial predator,” Vigano wrote, adding “he knew that he was a corrupt man, he covered for him to the bitter end”.

The Vatican said it had no comment to make on the claims.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar directly urged the pope on Saturday to take action against abuses and ensure justice for victims worldwide.

The abuse scandals in Ireland are part of a worldwide crisis for the Vatican.

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