The Pope's Words
Extracts from the Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland
Like yourselves, I have been deeply disturbed by the information which has come to light regarding the abuse of children and vulnerable young people by members of the Catholic Church in Ireland, particularly by priests and religious. I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way church authorities in Ireland dealt with them.
To the victims of abuse and their families
You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated.
It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel ... At the same time, I ask you not to lose hope. It is in the communion of the church that we encounter the person of Jesus Christ. Like you, he still bears the wounds of his own unjust suffering. He understands the depths of your pain and its enduring effect upon your lives and your relationships, including with the church.
To priests and religious who have abused children
You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals.
Openly acknowledge your guilt, submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God's mercy.
You have been deeply shocked to learn of the terrible things that took place in what ought to be the safest and most secure environment of all. In today's world it is not easy to build a home and to bring up children. They deserve to grow up in security, loved and cherished, with a strong sense of their identity and worth.
To the children and young people of Ireland
I wish to offer you a particular word of encouragement ... We are all scandalised by the sins and failures of some of the church's members ... But it is in the church that you will find Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and for ever (cf. Heb 13:8). He loves you and he has offered himself on the cross for you.
Seek a personal relationship with him within the communion of his church, for he will never betray your trust!
He alone can satisfy your deepest longings and give your lives their fullest meaning.
To the priests and religious of Ireland
MANY of you feel personally discouraged, even abandoned. I am also aware that in some people's eyes you are tainted by association, and viewed as if you were somehow responsible for the misdeeds of others.
At this painful time, I want to acknowledge the dedication of your priestly and religious lives and apostolates, and I invite you to re-affirm your faith in Christ.
To my brother bishops
It must be admitted that grave errors of judgement were made and failures of leadership occurred. All this has seriously undermined your credibility
Besides fully implementing the norms of canon law in addressing cases of child abuse, continue to cooperate with the civil authorities.
Only decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency will restore the respect and goodwill of the Irish people towards the church to which we have consecrated our lives.
To all the faithful of Ireland.
I TAKE this opportunity to thank the many men and women throughout Ireland already working for the safety of children in church environments ...
I am encouraged by the fact that the current safeguarding practices adopted by local churches are being seen as a model for other institutions to follow.