Papal Visit – What people think

Pope Francis made his first papal visit to Ireland in August 2018 for the World Meeting of Families.

Just 30 per cent of Irish people believe that the pope did enough to address clerical abuse. Practising Catholics, defined as those who attend religious services at least once a month, differed from the rest of the population with 50 per cent stating that they believed Pope Francis had gone far enough to address abuse.

The research was conducted in the form of a survey designed by Dr Gladys Ganiel, Research Fellow from the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s.

840 respondents took part in the survey, which was carried out as part of market research agency Amárach’s monthly omnibus survey in the Republic of Ireland, mid-to-late September 2018. 64 per cent of respondents in the survey identified themselves as Catholic.

Speaking about the findings, Dr Ganiel said: “Francis’ visit to Ireland has revealed a lot about how people in Ireland think about the Catholic Church. Even a pope as popular as Francis cannot distract from the widespread dismay about the way that the Church has handled clerical sexual abuse.

“At the same time, this survey shows clear evidence that Francis’ pontificate has had a positive impact on a significant minority of people’s perceptions of the Catholic Church, both since his visit to Ireland and since he became pope in 2013.”

The additional key findings include:

  • 31 per cent agreed the visit had been “a healing time for victims and survivors of clerical sex abuse”.    36 per cent disagreed and 24 per cent said neither/ or no opinion
  • 23 per cent agreed the visit had been “a healing time for LGBTQI people and their families”. 40 per cent disagreed and 37 per cent said neither/nor or no opinion
  • 66 per cent said their opinion of the Catholic Church has not changed since Francis became pope in 2013, with 22 per cent saying their opinion had become more favourable
  • 50 per cent of respondents agree that Pope Francis’ visit was good for the Catholic Church in Ireland and Ireland as a nation. 75 per cent of practising Catholics agreed with this statement.

80 per cent of the respondents did not attend any of the events surrounding the papal visit, for a number of different reasons. Of those, 51 per cent said they did not attend because they were simply not interested and 30 per cent said they disagreed with how the Catholic Church has handled abuse.

For practicing Catholics, 39 per cent said the main reason as to why they did not attend any of the events was because the travel/walk was too difficult, 22 per cent said they were not interested and 18 per cent said they disagreed with how the Church has handled abuse.

“For all the respondents except practising Catholics, indifference seems to have trumped anger about abuse as a reason for not attending – although abuse is still the next most significant factor,” Dr Ganiel added.

For more information on the entire survey, please visit:




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  1. Eddie Finnegan says:

    “The Papal Visit – What People Think” ???
    Well no. Maybe “The Papal Visit – What some people seem to think in response to some leading questions.”

    And, for a survey of all-Ireland thinking on faith, practice and an All-Ireland event such as Francis’s visit to an All-Ireland Church, why and how can a wholly online survey (see page 3 ‘Methodology’ and Map) be restricted to Dublin, Leinster, Munster and “Connacht/Ulster” – particularly in a Q.U.B.-funded survey.

    That old hard border is obviously already in place. A Free State Church for a Free State People, perhaps? But surely what Amárach calls “the proliferation of the internet among Irish people” should surmount that old border in Southern Catholic Church mentality?

  2. Ann Keevans says:

    The main reason why people did not attend the Papal Mass was because of the long walks to and from the Park. Since the majority of practicing Catholics at present in Ireland are the older generation very little effort was made to cater for their needs. Older people are not in the habit of walking several miles ,nor can they stand for hours in a field ,folding camping chairs were banned because they would take up too much space !. I had a ticket but could not walk anymore than maybe a mile or two. So I decided like many others to watch the entire visit on TV. Even though I would loved to have been present in the Phoenix Park I nevertheless thoroughly enjoyed the Visit of Pope Francis to Ireland. I set up camp in my living room for two days and watched every single minute of the visit. One million Viewers in Ireland did the same.
    I am still puzzled why the organizers told us that the 500,000 free tickets were booked, but less than half that number formed up . There will always be no shows when free tickets are issued but 300,000 no shows indicates to me any way that there must have been a major mistake made somewhere. Much was made of the weather but it rained just as heavily in Knock and the 45,000 ticket holders did turn up there. Why because the organizers in Knock found places nearby for people to park
    Another factor was that Coach Companies from all over Ireland were not consulted about the traffic plan. They were well aware that the distances that people were expected to walk were excessive and felt that a circular route could have been planned to drop people off near the Park. At the very least shuttle buses should have been provided for the many elderly people like me who will never get the chance to attend a Papal Mass again ever.

  3. Brendan Cafferty says:

    I agree with Ann @2 above.There were too many restrictions placed on Papal visit this time.I have relatives living not far from Phoenix Park and they were in a sort lock down mode for the visit.People getting on in years might like to have gone but felt their needs were not catered for-a senior Garda Officer said one would have to be as fit as if you were climbing Croagh Patrick-and we all know how difficult that is.As regards Knock I think many more should have been allowed there. In a former existence I was working at Knock in 1979 when many times 45k were there. While there were traffic problems and delays after the event no one one died.On matter of Knock could the Pope not have spent another hour in the place, and possibly visited the Basilica as Pope JP2 did in 1979,meeting the sick there? People coming to a Papal event are not there to cause trouble but are responsible and good humoured.Is H&S and PC thing gone too far? On another issue I think Pope attending World Meeting of Families becomes the main attraction and does it not take away from the purpose? And was it necessary to subject this good man of advanced years to the concert in Croke Park after such a long tiring day for him.

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