Pope Francis has said he is ashamed of the Catholic Church’s failure to adequately address the “repellent crimes” of sex abuse by clergy.
The Irish prime minister earlier delivered a strong warning to the Pope to take action against clergy involved in child abuse and keeping it secret.
The Pope spent 90 minutes meeting Irish survivors of clerical child sex abuse.
The papal visit, the first to the Irish Republic for 39 years, coincides with the World Meeting of Families.
It is a global Catholic gathering held every three years.
The Argentine Pope’s opening remarks echoed a letter he sent to the world’s 1.2bn Roman Catholics this week, in which he condemned the “atrocities” of child abuse and clerical cover-ups.
“I cannot fail to acknowledge the grave scandal caused in Ireland by the abuse of young people by members of the Church charged with responsibility for their protection and education,” the Pope told political leaders and dignitaries at Dublin Castle.
“The failure of ecclesiastical authorities – bishops, religious superiors, priests and others – adequately to address these repellent crimes has rightly given rise to outrage, and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community,” he said.
“I myself share those sentiments.”
The Pope veered off his script when speaking out about abuse, saying he had set out a “greater commitment to eliminating this scourge in the Church, at any cost”.
He was speaking after Irish PM Leo Varadkar said the failures of the Church, the state and wider society had created a “bitter and broken heritage for so many, leaving a legacy of pain and suffering”.
“Magdalene Laundries, mother-and-baby homes, industrial schools, illegal adoptions and clerical child abuse are stains on our state, our society and also the Catholic Church,” he said, referring to a series of scandals that have rocked the Irish Church.
“People kept in dark corners, behind closed doors, cries for help that went unheard… Above all, Holy Father, I ask to you to listen to the victims and survivors.”
Mr Varadkar said there could be zero tolerance for those who abuse children or who facilitate that abuse and that from words action must flow.
He referred to an investigation in the US state of Pennsylvania that found that more than 1,000 identifiable minors had been abused by 300 priests.
Mr Varadkar said the “heartbreaking stories” of “unspeakable crimes”, perpetrated by religious officials and then obscured to protect the institutions, was a story “all too tragically familiar” to people in Ireland.
Colm O’Gorman of Amnesty International Ireland, who was abused by a priest for more than two years as a teenager, said the Pope’s comments did not go far enough.
“He could have talked to us all in a way that was blunt, that was clear, that was frank, that was human, that was accessible,” he said.
Savia, a group of survivors and victims of institutional abuse, set up a protest outside Dublin Castle, on the route of the popemobile.
They set children’s shoes on the pavement, each representing a child who had been abused by priests.