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Pope Francis in Ireland. Photo: Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

Pope Francis met privately with victims of clerical abuse during his first visit to Ireland this weekend, begging for forgiveness for the Church's sins amid massive outcry over its mounting scandals, reports the AP.

Driving the news: In step with his Ireland visit, Archbishop Carlo Vigano, a former Vatican ambassador to the U.S., has accused Francis of knowing about allegations of sexual abuse against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in 2013 and has called on him to resign, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

  • Vigano claims that Pope Benedict XVI had leveled unannounced sanctions against McCarrick in 2009 or 2010, which prevented him from celebrating Mass publicly or traveling. Vigano says he told Francis about the allegations in 2013, three months after he was elected pope, but that Francis ignored them and made McCarrick "free from all constraints."
  • Worth noting: Vigano provided no evidence that there was a formal reversal of the sanctions and has himself been accused of covering up sexual abuse allegations, per NCR.

The big picture: Separate from the sexual abuse scandals roiling the Church across the rest of the globe, Ireland has a history of forced adoptions pushed by the Church that saw newborns taken away from unwed mothers. Francis' visit to Ireland was intended to coincide with the World Meeting of Families, a global gathering of the Catholic Church, but it has been largely overshadowed by demands that he address the Church's worldwide issues.

"None of us can fail to be moved by the stories of young people who suffered abuse, were robbed of their innocence or taken away from their mothers, abandoned and left scarred by painful memories. ... This open wound challenges us to be firm and decisive in the pursuit of truth and justice."
— Pope Francis' sermon in Knock, Ireland on Sunday

Go deeper

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Image: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

2 hours ago - World

Australian PM pledges $700M for climate change-threatened Great Barrier reef

A green sea turtle is flourishing among the corals at Lady Elliot island in Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Friday a AU$1 billion ($703 million) investment plan for the Great Barrier Reef.

Why it matters: The nine-year plan for projects including water quality improvement, reef conservation and supporting some 64,000 tourism jobs comes months ahead of this year's federal election. It has been criticized by scientists and environmental groups for failing to tackle climate change.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.