Pope Francis asked forgiveness for sexual abuses committed by members of the Roman Catholic clergy in Ireland during a Sunday ceremony in Dublin, and he ended a tough visit during which there was a call for him to resign by one of his cardinals'.
The Pope gave a homily at a Mass before tens of thousands of the faithful in Phoenix Park in Dublin, The New York Times reported.
"We ask forgiveness for the abuses in Ireland, abuses of power, of conscience and sexual abuse perpetrated by members with roles of responsibility in the Church.
"In a special way, we ask pardon for all the abuses committed in various types of institutions run by male or female religious and by other members of the Church. Furthermore, we ask forgiveness for the cases of exploitation through manual work that so many minors were inflicted," said the Pope.
On the second day of a difficult mission to win back the confidence of Irish Roman Catholics, Pope Francis awoke on Aug. 26 to a bombshell accusation from within his own citadel.
7,000 WORD LETTER
A former top-ranking Vatican official released a 7,000-word letter asserting that the pontiff had known about the abuses of a now-disgraced American prelate, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, years before they became public.
The official, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a conservative critic of Francis and a former apostolic nuncio to the United States, claimed that Francis had failed to punish Cardinal McCarrick, The Washington Post reported.
The letter from Viganò, who was recalled from his D.C. post in 2016 during allegations that he'd become embroiled in the conservative American fight against same-sex marriage, was first reported by the National Catholic Register and LifeSite News, two conservative sites.
The letter offered no proof, and Viganò told The Washington Post he wouldn't comment further.
"Silence and prayer are the only things that are befitting," he said.
Cardinal McCarrick was suspended in June after allegations that he had coerced seminarians into sexual relationships.
He was also found to have abused a teenage altar boy 47 years ago, when he was a priest in New York.
The trend of less-than-holy behavior is, however, not limited to the Catholic Church, although it has gotten the majority of the media's attention and the public's criticism, Roy Speckhardt, executive director, of American Humanist Association wrote in the Huffington Post.
It cited recent cases such as that of Pastor Tony Alamo, who was convicted of abusing several young children and forced the U.S. government to remove children at his ministry from their negligent parents.
Huffington Post said it shows that sexual abuse exists in different religious communities.
It appears that many institutions that have a tradition of powerful clerics that guide the community also suffer from allegations of child sexual abuse.
"This situation is often worsened when the religious institutions attempt to handle the matter internally by trying the offenders in a religious court instead of reporting the abuse to secular authorities," wrote Speckhardt.
He cited allegations of sexual abuse in several Hasidic Jewish communities, where young boys were routinely abused at religious schools and community gatherings.
"These children weren't able to come forward with their allegations for years because they feared being cast out from the religious community for accusing one of their "holy" leaders of such a despicable crime," Speckhardt wrote.
He said that when the boys finally did come forward the rabbis were tried in an ecclesiastical court, much like the Catholic priests who were accused of similar crimes.
The courts exonerated the rabbis of their crimes and halted efforts to pursue secular justice against the offenders.
CALLED ON POPE TO RESIGN
In the letter, published on Saturday in Italian by The National Catholic Register and in English by LifeSiteNews, both critical of Francis, the archbishop called on the Pope to resign.
"In this extremely dramatic moment for the universal Church," the archbishop wrote, "he must acknowledge his mistakes and, in keeping with the proclaimed principle of zero tolerance, Pope Francis must be the first to set an example for cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick's abuses and resign with all of them."
In Dublin the Vatican estimated that 300,000 people flocked to Phoenix Park for the Mass to close the World Meeting of Families, a global Catholic gathering that is held every three years. Other crowd estimates were lower, said the BBC.