POPE FRANCIS has condemned the years of clerical child abuse within the Catholic Church and subsequent cover-ups in a letter to the public.
In a letter addressed to “the whole of People of God”, the pontiff condemned the “crime” of clerical sexual abuse and cover-up.
He demanded accountability and begged forgiveness for the pain suffered by victims and said that their pain has been “long ignored, kept quiet or silenced”.
"Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike.
"Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient.
"Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated.
"The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults."
He adds: "With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realising the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives.
"We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them."
Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Ireland next weekend as part of the World Meeting of Families 2018.
He will arrive on Saturday to visit Knock shrine in Co Mayo, before heading to Dublin where he will say mass at both Croke Park and Phoenix Park before leaving again on Sunday evening.