Wednesday 17 July 2019

Pope Francis 'unaware' of the Mother and Baby Homes before meeting survivors

The site of the mass grave at Tuam, Co Galway
The site of the mass grave at Tuam, Co Galway
Conor McCrave

Conor McCrave

Pope Francis was “genuinely shocked” and "unaware" of the abuses carried out at the Mother and Baby Homes during a meeting with survivors on Saturday night.

The Pontiff met with a number of survivors of clerical abuse including campaigner and sexual abuse survivor Marie Collins as well as Mother and Baby Home survivor Clodagh Malone.

“He certainly was quite shocked and he asked when he didn’t understand. He wanted to know the difference between the Magdalene Laundries and the Mother and Baby Homes,” said Marie Collins.

“He wasn’t trying to deny it in any way, he actually wanted to know more.”

Upon hearing of the abuses carried out in these institutions, the Argentinian Pope went on to compare them to a strict penal regime carried out against women in his own country. 

“Pope Francis was unaware of the abuse. He didn’t seem to be familiar with it,” said Ms Collins.

CEAD MILE FAILTE: Above, Pope Francis in Dublin city centre yesterday as thousands thronged the streets of the capitol to welcome the Pontiff. Photo: David Conachy
CEAD MILE FAILTE: Above, Pope Francis in Dublin city centre yesterday as thousands thronged the streets of the capitol to welcome the Pontiff. Photo: David Conachy

“He spoke about women being imprisoned in Argentina, a harsh penal process. We are so familiar with it we assume everyone is, in some ways I wasn’t that surprised.”

Sexual abuse survivor and Dublin Councillor Damian O’Farrell also attended the meeting of eight survivors which lasted 90 minutes.

“He was annoyed at the treatment of those people. They were told that it was a mortal sin and he was very annoyed that people would be told that,” he said of the Pope’s response.

“He was annoyed that children would be taken from their mothers. But he was very empathetic. He was very calm.”

Mr O’Farrell said those who were invited to the meeting had concerns over how long they would have to give their account to the Pope but were told not to worry about time.

Following a question from the room asking what Jesus would do, he told of a letter sent to Cardinals in the past week telling them Jesus would leave the church because of the abuses.

RAPTUROUS WELCOME: Pope Francis is given a standing
ovation as he passes through the crowds at the Festival of
Families in Croke Park. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
RAPTUROUS WELCOME: Pope Francis is given a standing ovation as he passes through the crowds at the Festival of Families in Croke Park. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

“He mentioned that two days before the conclave that he wrote to all the Cardinals and he told them that Jesus is knocking on the door,” said Mr O’Farrell.

“Then he said but Cardinals he’s not knocking from the outside he’s knocking from the inside.

“He was sending a message. There was a lot of passion in the room."

In a statement Clodagh Malone said: "It was a powerful and positive meeting that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I feel my faith has been renewed and I have real hope for the future of the Catholic Church while Pope Francis continues to fight for all survivors around the world."

Pope Francis described those who covered up the abuse as 'caca' meaning 'filth' after hearing the personal accounts.

Online Editors

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