Pope Francis will visit Ireland for a two-day visit starting Saturday to take part in an international Catholic gathering of the World Meeting of Families that takes place every three years in a different city.
"When the pope arrives in Ireland this weekend, he will find a Catholic Church not just falling to ruin, but in some respects beyond repair," columnist Fintan O'Toole wrote for the Irish Times.
A series of state investigations between 2005 and 2014 exposed rampant sexual abuse of minors by church priests across the country. Church-sponsored homes for unmarried mothers have been investigated for their mistreatment of children.
"He will be greeted with joy by the faithful, but few, even among them, will expect him to be able to fix an institution that has been shaken to its very foundations," wrote O’Toole.
Just last week a Pennsylvania grand jury investigation called for by the state attorney general revealed horrifying details of institutionalized sexual abuse and rape by over 300 priests on more than 1,000 children across the state since the 1950s. Church priests and officials there conducted careful coverup of the crimes and protected the perpetrators for decades.
It wasn’t until several days later that the pontiff released a statement saying that he acknowledged "with shame and repentance" the Catholic Church's failure to prevent and punish sexual abusers for decades, writing "we showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them."
Several Chilean bishops stepped down in June after a lengthy, and ongoing, investigation showed rampant sexual abuse by priests against minors within several dioceses across the country.
These reports have given Irish abuse victims and those from around the world - some are flying to Dublin during Francis’s brief visit - fresh resolve to demand that the church becomes more accountable for its sexual abuse problem.
"There are those who feel they can no longer trust our message, perhaps because they have been directly hurt and betrayed in their families by their experience of Church, or because the revelations of such heinous crimes have shocked them to the core," said Archbishop Eamon Martin, Ireland's most senior Church official.
The archbishop added: "It is not enough just to say sorry. Structures that permit or facilitate abuse must be broken down and broken down forever."
While Pope Francis gives a Mass in Dublin on Sunday, abuse victims and advocates will gather in another part of the city calling on the pope to do more than to hold a private meeting with a few abuse survivors.