Pope Francis is to meet Irish victims of clerical sexual abuse at the Vatican next week in a significant move.

Campaigner Marie Collins, the first known abuse victim to meet the pontiff, has welcome the news.

She met with the Pope briefly in Rome last month when she attended the first meeting of the Vatican’s new Commission for the Protection of Minors.

One of four women on the commission which meets again next month, Collins has welcomed the Pope’s announcement that he will meet victims from Ireland, America, Britain and Poland.

Collins told the Irish Times that she is ‘hopeful’ and ‘quite positive’ about the commission.

Acknowledging matters are at an early stage, she told the paper: “From what I’ve seen, I think it’s going in the right direction. I do think the people involved are sincere.

“I am more positive after the first meeting than I was beforehand.”

Collins may be present when the Pope meets clerical sexual abuse victims in the Vatican next week.

He announced the plans on the papal flight back to Rome following his recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

The Irish Times reports that Francis told reporters that he would be meeting a group of victims, probably sometime in early July.

The paper says Vatican practice where such meetings are concerned usually entails no advance warning, with news of the encounter relayed to the media only after the victims have met the pontiff.

The report says it is expected that the meeting will take place in the Domus Santa Marta, the Vatican bed and breakfast that Pope Francis uses as his residence in preference to the Apostolic Palace.

Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi could not confirm speculation about next week’s encounter nor could he offer any details about what might happen at the meeting.

The US clerical sex abuse victims lobby Snap said: “In each of those four countries, hundreds or even thousands of victims are bravely speaking up and protecting children by exposing clerics who commit and conceal heinous clergy sex crimes.

“There’s a lesson here for victims across the world. Despite deep pain and long odds, by overcoming your fears and uniting with other victims you can attract attention and sometimes prod Catholic officials to do something.

“More importantly, by stepping forward, you can reduce your shame, get some help and begin - no matter what the church hierarchy does or doesn’t do - to really protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.”