Pope Francis lamented on Wednesday how Irish church authorities failed to respond to the crimes of sexual abuse, speaking during his first public appearance at the Vatican after bombshell accusations that he covered up for an American cardinal’s misdeeds. During his weekly general audience in St Peter’s Square, Francis spoke about his weekend trip to Ireland , where the abuse scandal has devastated the Catholic Church’s credibility. The final day of the trip was overshadowed by the release of a document from a retired Holy See diplomat accusing Vatican authorities, including Francis, of covering up for ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick despite knowing for years that he regularly slept with seminarians. The author of the document – retired Vatican ambassador to the US Carlo Maria Vigano – said Francis should resign for his complicity in the McCarrick scandal, which has implicated two decades’ worth of US and Vatican church officials. Francis referred on Wednesday to the Irish culture of cover-up, but omitted a line in his prepared text noting how he had prayed in Ireland for the Virgin Mary to intervene to give the church strength to “firmly pursue truth and justice” to help victims heal. US Catholics have called for an independent investigation to find out who knew about McCarrick’s abuse and when, and how he rose through the ranks even though it was an open secret he regularly invited seminarians into his bed. Last month Francis removed McCarrick as a cardinal and ordered him to live a lifetime of penance and prayer after a US church investigation determined that an allegation he groped a teenage altar boy in the 1970s was credible. Churches need to act on claims of abuse Vigano’s 11-page j’accuse alleges that Francis knew of McCarrick’s penchant for adult seminarians starting in 2013, but lifted sanctions pope Benedict had allegedly imposed on him in 2009 or 2010. The claims have shaken Francis’ five-year papacy. There is ample evidence, however, that the Vatican under Benedict and John Paul also covered up the information. Vigano provided no evidence that Francis had lifted the alleged sanctions, saying only that McCarrick announced after a meeting with the pope that he was going to China. Sex abuse in US churches is a stain on America’s human rights record, and China should point that out But he said McCarrick had become a close adviser to Francis, who was seeking to appoint more pastorally-minded bishops to the US church, which he believed had become too ideologically driven by right-wingers.