Friday 28 April 2017

Papal epistle starts healing process

But the Pope's letter leaves no wriggle room for under-fire bishops, writes Colum Kenny at St Patrick's in Armagh

Colum Kenny

Colum Kenny

It was a sunny morning in Armagh yesterday, and St Patrick's Cathedral was warm and bright. But, as he celebrated Mass, Cardinal Sean Brady looked tired and dignified rather than happy or pleased. He was about to read us the Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland.

It was hard not to imagine from the words of a beautiful hymn being sung that it had not been picked just to sustain him: Jesus Lord I ask for mercy/ Let me not implore in vain.

The church hierarchy in Ireland is working hard to cope with fall-out from the sex abuse scandal, a point underlined by the fact that I had earlier received a text message from its director of communications at 3.50am yesterday. The press office was not spinning the Pope's words. But it wanted them heard. And they are worth hearing, and reading. Pope Benedict's pastoral letter is clearer than any statement that has come from the Irish hierarchy itself on sex abuse in the church.

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