Pope Francis said on Saturday he is ashamed of the Catholic Church’s failure to address the cases of sex abuse by members of the clergy, BBC reported. The pope made the remark on a visit to Ireland, where he spent time with victims of sexual abuse.

“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 said 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 vowed to end the sexual exploitation of children by members of the clergy and said the corruption and cover-up of abuse was equal to filth. He said he had set out a “greater commitment to eliminating this scourge in the Church, at any cost”.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar called for zero tolerance of sexual abuse by the clergy. “I ask that you use your office and influence to ensure this is done here in Ireland and across the world,” Varadkar said, according to CNN. Referring to a United States grand jury report that alleged that 300 Roman Catholic priests had molested more than 1,000 children in six Pennsylvania dioceses over decades, Varadkar said it “was all too tragically familiar in Ireland”.

“In recent weeks, we have all listened to heartbreaking stories from Pennsylvania of brutal crimes perpetrated by people within the Catholic Church, and then obscured to protect the institution at the expense of innocent victims,” the Irish prime minister said. “It is a story all too tragically familiar here in Ireland.”

The Pope had earlier apologised for “grave mistakes” he said he had made in the handling of cases of child sex abuse in Chile. In June, he accepted the resignation of three Chilean bishops in June following sexual abuse scandals. In July, he accepted the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a former archbishop of Washington DC, who was accused of sexual assault. McCarrick became the first cardinal to lose his title.

Earlier this month, in a letter to Catholics around the world, the pope said no effort must be spared to create a culture that prevents such situations from happening again, and also prevents the possibility of their being covered up.

‘Pope Francis knew of allegations against McCarrick’

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, a former top Vatican official, has accused the pope of having known of allegations of sex abuse by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Reuters reported. In an 11-page letter to conservative Roman Catholic media outlets, Vigano said that he had told Pope Francis of the allegations against McCarrick in June 2013. “Pope Francis must be the first to set a good example for cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses and resign along with all of them,” he said in the letter.