(WB) Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar raised LGBTI-specific issues during Pope Francis’ two-day visit to the country.
Varadkar, who is openly gay, on Saturday in a speech in front of Francis at Dublin Castle pointed out same-sex couples can legally marry in Ireland. Varadkar also noted Irish voters in May voted overwhelmingly to legalize abortion in the country.
Divorce became legal in Ireland in 1996.
“The Ireland of the 21st century is a very different place today than it was in the past,” said Varadkar. “Ireland is increasingly diverse.”
“One in six of us were not born here, and there are more and more people who adhere to other faiths, or who are comfortable in declaring that they subscribe to no organized religion,” he added. “We have voted in our Parliament and by referendum to modernize our laws — understanding that marriages do not always work, that women should make their own decisions, and that families come in many forms including those headed by a grandparent, lone parent or same-sex parents or parents who are divorced.”
Consensual same-sex sexual relations were criminalized when Pope John Paul II visited Ireland in 1979.
Varadkar told an Irish television last week that he planned to tell Francis LGBTI people, women and those who are divorced “feel excluded from the church.” The Washington Blade has reached out to Varadkar’s office for comment.
Clergy sex abuse overshadows papal visit
Francis on Saturday met with Irish President Michael D. Higgins and visited Dublin’s St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral. Francis on Sunday visited a Catholic shrine in western Ireland and celebrated Mass at Dublin’s Phoenix Park that marked the end of the World Meeting of Families 2018 before he returned to Rome.
Francis traveled to Ireland less than two weeks after a Pennsylvania grand jury released a report that says Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington and other church officials covered up clergy sex abuse of children for decades.
Wuerl, who was the bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988-2006, was scheduled to attend the World Meeting of Families in Ireland, but he cancelled his trip after the grand jury released its report. The National Catholic Register and other Catholic media outlets on Saturday published a letter from Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a former Vatican ambassador to the U.S., in which he said Francis knew about the sex abuse allegations against then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington.
Viganò in his letter that urges Francis to resign said the pontiff rescinded the sanctions against McCarrick that Pope Benedict XVI had previously imposed against him.
McCarrick in June resigned from the College of Cardinals. The disgraced former archbishop of Washington has been ordered to a “life of prayer and penance” before the church tries him on the allegations.
Viganò in his letter states “the seriousness of homosexual behavior must be denounced” and “homosexual networks present in the church must be eradicated,” even though there are no links between pedophilia and homosexuality.
Viganò in 2015 invited Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who went to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, to meet with Francis at his D.C. home during his trip to the U.S.
Francis had a private meeting with Yayo Grassi, a former student, and his longtime partner, while he was in D.C. The Vatican downplayed the pontiff’s meeting with Davis.
Francis meets with clergy sex abuse survivors
The Vatican Press Office said Francis on Saturday met with eight people “who have suffered abuse of power, of conscience and sexual abuse.”
The press release also notes Francis acknowledged the “grave scandal caused in Ireland by the abuse of young people by members of the church.” The Vatican Press Office and media reports also indicate Francis expressed shame at the church’s response to the sex abuse scandal in the country and around the world.
Francis in May met with Juan Carlos Cruz, a gay man from Chile who is among the hundreds of people who were sexually abused by a priest in the country’s capital of Santiago, at the Vatican. All of Chile’s Catholic bishops submitted their resignations the same month amid lingering outrage over the clergy sex abuse scandal that has rocked the South American country.