Pope Francis will meet victims of sexual abuse during his visit to Ireland at the weekend, the Vatican said on Tuesday.
Accusations of child abuse in Catholic institutions in Ireland date back several decades, with the number of underaged victims estimated at around 14,500.
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said the scandal could not be avoided during the August 25 and 26 visit.
“The important thing for the pope is to listen,” he said, adding that it was up to victims whether to disclose any other details about their meeting.
The official reason for the pope’s visit is to close the World Meeting of Families, a global Catholic gathering which began on Tuesday.
Pope Francis also took part at the last gathering in Philadelphia in 2015.
“The pope wants to talk about the family,” Burke said, but acknowledged that “any trip to Ireland was not only going to be about the family”.
There will be “many opportunities” for Pope Francis to address the question of clerical abuse in the six speeches he is expected to make during his visit, he added.
On Saturday the pontiff will also pray in a chapel in St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Dublin which is dedicated to abuse victims.
Pope Francis condemned Monday the “atrocities” revealed by a far-reaching US report into clerical child sex abuse in the state of Pennsylvania.
“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,” he said in a letter addressed to the “People of God”.
The searing US grand jury report published last week decried a systematic cover-up by the Catholic Church and said that while more than 1,000 child victims were identifiable, the actual number was thought to be “in the thousands”.
The World Meeting of Families — an event organised every three years which mixes festive celebrations with round-table discussions — will end on Saturday with a “festival of families”, followed by a open-air mass on Sunday.
The last papal visit to Ireland was almost 40 years ago when John Paul II went there in 1979.