Cardinal asks flock to read letter 'with open heart'
UNDER-pressure Primate of All Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady asked Catholics to read the Pope's pastoral letter on child abuse with an open heart as he addressed Mass-goers at the weekend.
Dr Brady, who has said he would take a period of time to reflect on his future, said: "In the name of the church, Pope Benedict openly expresses the shame and remorse that we all feel about the abuse that has occurred."
"He expresses the depth of the pain that has been caused and acknowledges that some people find it difficult even to go inside the doors of a church after all that has occurred."
The cardinal told the congregation: "It is evident from the pastoral letter that Pope Benedict is deeply dismayed by what he refers to as 'sinful and criminal acts and the way the church authorities in Ireland dealt with them'.
"He says the church in Ireland must acknowledge before the Lord and others the serious sins committed against defenceless children."
"The Holy Father offers very stern words to priests who have abused children. He says directly to them: 'You betrayed the trust . . . placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before almighty God'.
"He says they must also be accountable to the processes of civil and canon law. He tells them that their crimes brought shame, dishonour and damage to the church."
Many parishioners in the Archdiocese of Armagh attended Mass yesterday expecting to hear the Pope's words read out.
But Fr John McKeever offered the congregation a personal copy of extracts from the papal letter, encouraging them to take it home and read it. Dr Brady did not make a public appearance yesterday, after addressing his congregation on Saturday.
At nearby St Malachy's Church, Fr Eugene Sweeney also prayed for Dr Brady -- who he said had been under pressure as he was "called for account for what another priest had done".
Dr Brady continues to resist calls to resign for his handling of historic abuse allegations that saw victims sign confidentiality deals.
Last week, new details emerged about his role in secrecy oaths taken by two victims of notorious paedophile cleric Father Brendan Smyth almost 35 years ago.