Archbishop insists victims will only be healed by speaking out
FAITHFUL Catholics were left "angered and appalled" by the scale of clerical child sexual abuse in a church "shaken by wrongdoing", a senior cleric has admitted.
Saying Mass on the summit of Croagh Patrick, Co Mayo, Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary told pilgrims that the shocking revelations would end only when all survivors had told their stories.
On display at the summit was the Eucharistic Congress Bell from 1932, which is being promoted as a symbol of church renewal ahead of next year's international congress in Ireland. It was taken up the mountain by a group of young people on Friday morning.
Pilgrim numbers were down from last year, as many locals had done the climb on Garland Friday, before heading to Croke Park for Mayo's win over All-Ireland champions Cork.
Referring to the shocking Cloyne, Murphy and Ryan reports, Dr Neary said it was understandable that many faithful Catholics were experiencing distress and discouragement.
"We are very conscious of the enormous difficulties besetting our church, chiefly in the number of innocent people who have suffered through the wrong-doing of some priests," he said.
"Many are angered and appalled by what they have learned. Indeed, these feelings are shared by priests, religious and, yes, bishops too."
Last month's report into the Co Cork diocese criticised Bishop John Magee for his handling of complaints of child sex abuse against priests. It sparked a row between church and State over child protection practices, and a landmark rebuke of the Vatican by Taoiseach Enda Kenny. A Vatican response to the Cloyne Report is expected before the end of this month.
Dr Neary recalled that last week a woman asked him when it would all end.
"The honest answer is that it will not end until every survivor has told their story and until every victim is facilitated in embarking on their journey to real healing, where true dignity is accorded."
The poor weather failed to daunt the determination of pilgrims yesterday.
Bernie Barrins, a retired garda sergeant, said he had got out of bed in Ballina at 5am to drive to the area, and it took him an hour and 20 minutes to get to the top in time for 8.30am Mass.
While his garda training served him well, he found the climb "hard enough".
"It was a very miserable morning and the stones were slippery," he added, noting that the most difficult part was starting the descent as many stones on the cone near the top were loose.
"I was surprised by how many climbed in their bare feet," he added.
Mr Barrins said it was for religious not recreational reasons that he had undertaken the climb.
"It was for a spiritual reason that I climbed the mountain. Otherwise I would not have got up in the middle of a dark night. But there is a feel-good factor in having done so."
Geoffrey McCafferty, a veteran of 20 previous climbs, came "extra prepared" for the bad weather, but found it difficult.
"I was surprised to see so many young people, some of whom looked as if they had just come from a party and were unprepared in their suits and dresses."
Asked how the abuse scandals had affected his belief, Mr McCafferty said that while he had been shocked, it had not shaken his faith in the church.
"There are bad apples in every profession," he said.