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Catholic church abuse survivors in Ireland request meeting with Pope Francis to discuss compensation

(Reuters/Tony Gentile)Pope Francis leaves after leading the weekly audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican December 9, 2015.

Survivors of sexual and physical abuse in Catholic-run institutions are requesting a meeting with Pope Francis during his upcoming visit to the country in August to discuss compensation.

According to The Guardian, the campaign group Irish Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA) have sent a letter to the archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, demanding a meeting with the pope to ask why Catholic religious orders have not paid out more in compensation.

Francis is expected to visit Ireland in August for the World Meeting of Families, marking the first time that a pope has been present in the country in nearly 40 years.

SOCA has taken issue with a 2002 deal between the Irish government and the Catholic Church, in which most of the bill for compensating abuse victims in religious institutions was footed by taxpayers. Under the 2002 deal, the Church was required to pay €128 million (US$157.55 million) out of a €1.3 billion (US$1.6 billion) compensation bill.

The Guardian reported that Ireland's comptroller and auditor general had discovered last year that the Church had only paid €85 million (US$104.62 million) of the compensation bill. SOCA has contended that the church should at least pay the full amount of €128 million.

The group also stated in the letter that the survivors wanted to tell Francis what they described as "Violence R Us" culture in religious orders such as Christian Brothers, which ran Ireland's notorious industrial schools.

"At this time I don't intend to recite the sums involved but they are substantial and a debt of honour to Ireland is overdue since much remains unpaid and the orders have shown themselves unworthy in this respect," SOCA coordinator John Kelly wrote.

"These matters should now be handled by the papal authorities in Rome through a special remittances office to be established for the purpose. There should be no further quibbling over money owed to the Irish state," he continued.

SOCA is hoping for a response from the archbishop and the Vatican within the next two weeks, the Guardian reported.

In March 2017, abuse survivors called for an immediate papal intervention to break the deadlock between Catholic religious orders and the State over the Church's contribution to the compensation to victims.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton had stated at the time that the Church had failed to fulfill its promise to pay its one-quarter share of the compensation bill, while Kelly had contended that 18 religious orders have reneged on their promises to pay their fair share.

The Christian Brothers defended itself at the time by saying the 14-month old figures in the report released by the State's auditor had not taken into account the congregations' more recent €14 million (US$17.22) cash payment as well as the playing fields worth "well over €100m" that are ready to be transferred to the Edmund Rice Schools Trust.

Bruton, however, argued that the transferring the playing fields to Edmunds Rice Trust was not acceptable, and said that it should be transferred instead to the State or sold under a joint agreement.

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