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(SKY NEWS) – The Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar has said he will press Pope Francis for full disclosure on child abuse by Catholic priests.
The Taioseach said he will discuss the issue with the Pope during their 10-minute meeting in Ireland over the weekend.
Sky’s senior Ireland correspondent David Blevins asked Mr Varadkar on Friday to what extent any prime minister can put pressure on the Vatican to completely open up about child abuse.
He replied: “I think we can and I think we have to.
“Things are far from perfect in Ireland when it comes to issues around child protection, but we have made a lot of strides in the right direction in the last couple of years.
“We don’t for example have any statutory limitations when it comes to prosecuting people who are perpetrators of child sex abuse, and we’ve brought in mandatory reporting over the last year and that’s not the case in other countries.”
He added: “But I believe whether its the law of the land or not, it’s good practice and should be applied across the board by the church all over the world, and they have the power to do that if they wish to do so.”
Mr Varadkar, whose mother was Catholic and dad was a Hindu, is the country’s first openly gay prime minister.
He added that despite being raised a Catholic he doesn’t practice any religion at the moment.
The Taioseach told Sky News he was in favour of a greater separation of church and state but supported religious freedom.
When asked about the church’s “considerable influence in terms of education and hospitals”, he replied: “I think it should change, I think it will change, but I’m also not an extreme secularist either.
“I think that there is a role to play, a valuable role to play for religious bodies of all sorts when it comes to charitable provision, when it comes to welfare.”
Pope Francis is due to arrive in Dublin on Saturday for a 36-hour visit.
Irish victims of abuse by the Catholic Church have said the Pope should apologise to them directly when he visits the country.
Mr Varadkar, who will only briefly meet the pontiff, said: “I don’t want to skirt over lots of topics just to say that I raised them.
“The first is to welcome him to Ireland on behalf of the Irish people, on behalf of the faithful in particular.
“Secondly is to talk about my wish that we can open a new chapter in relations between Ireland, the Irish state and the Catholic church, that is more equal, that is more respectful, and one that is more modern.”
A refurbished Popemobile from 1979 has been unveiled in Dublin along with a new waxwork of Pope Francis ahead of his visit to Ireland.
The restored vehicle had not been used since it transported Pope John Paul II during the last papal visit to the country.
Up to half a million people are expected to make their way to Phoenix Park in Dublin for the closing mass on Sunday.