DUBLIN (AP) — The Latest on Pope Francis’ trip to Ireland (all times local):
Pope Francis has departed for Ireland, the first papal visit to that traditionally Roman Catholic country since 1979.
As usual, Francis carried his black leather satchel himself as he climbed the stairs to board a Alitalia A320 on Saturday and greeted the flight crew.
The plane, which also carried his entourage, took off from Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport at 8:30 a.m. local time (0630 GMT.)
The pope’s visit to Ireland risks being dominated by criticism over the Catholic Church hierarchy’s handling of predator priests who sexually abused children.
The pope is scheduled to return to Rome late Sunday night.
Pope Francis is heading to Ireland as the Catholic Church faces a global crisis for its systemic failures to protect children from clergy sex abuse or to punish bishops who hid the crimes.
Francis was expected to meet with abuse victims on Saturday as part of his 36-hour visit to Dublin, where the Vatican says he will have “many opportunities” to speak out about abuse.
His visit is the first by a pope to Ireland in 40 years and is aimed at showing the church understands the problems of ordinary Catholic families.
A Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families that opened on Tuesday ends Sunday in Dublin. More than 37,000 people — most of them young Catholics — signed up to attend the event, more than twice the number who did when the family rally was held in Philadelphia three years ago.