On Sunday during a quick visit to Knock Shrine in county Mayo, Pope Francis entrusted the Irish people to the care of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
"Mary our Mother is also the Mother of the Church, and it is to her that we commend today the journey of God's faithful people on this emerald isle," he said Aug. 26.

"Amid the storms and winds that buffet our times, may they be a bulwark of faith and goodness, resisting, in the best traditions of this nation, all that would diminish our dignity as men and women created in God's image," he said, during what was a rainy, foggy morning in the west Ireland village.

Giving to the shrine a golden rosary, the pope recognized the Irish tradition of praying a family rosary and encouraged the around 45,000 people present to continue doing so. "Who can tell how many hearts… have drawn comfort and strength" from meditation on the rosary, he said.

After praying in silence inside the shrine – which was built on the site of an 1879 apparition – Pope Francis gave a brief speech, in which he also asked for the intercession of Our Lady for healing for abuse victims and for all Christians, that they may resolve to never again let those things happen.

"In my prayer before her statue, I presented to her in particular all the victims of abuse of whatever kind committed by members of the Church in Ireland," he stated, and noted the moving nature of the testimonies of young victims.

This "open wound" in the Church "challenges us to be firm and decisive in the pursuit of truth and justice."

"I beg the Lord's forgiveness for these sins and for the scandal and betrayal felt by so many others in God's family," he said.

After leading the recitation of the Angelus, Francis expressed his closeness to the people of Ireland who are imprisoned and thanked them for the letters they sent him. "May Our Lady of Mercy watch over you and protect you, and strengthen you in faith and hope!" he concluded.