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Archbishop warns Vatican must own up to abuse failings


‘We have done a lot in Ireland’: Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. Photo: Tony Gavin

‘We have done a lot in Ireland’: Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. Photo: Tony Gavin

‘We have done a lot in Ireland’: Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. Photo: Tony Gavin

Bishops and the Vatican must own up to past failings on protecting children from abuse, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has said.

As the world's Catholic bishops head to the Vatican this week for a key summit on child sexual abuse, Dr Martin has appealed to participants to be "very honest" about "what went wrong in the past".

Pope Francis yesterday asked for prayers for the summit and described child sex abuse as an "urgent challenge of our time".

He has summoned the presidents of over 1,000 bishops' conferences from around the world to Rome in a bid to chart a way forward and agree best safeguarding practice for an institution with more than 1.2 billion adherents.

Speaking to the Irish Independent in Gardiner Street after he celebrated Mass for Blessed John Sullivan SJ, Dr Martin indicated the Vatican and its offices, as well as the presidents of bishops' conferences, need to own up to past failings. "Let everybody recognise the failings - let's not try to smooth it out," he appealed.

He referred to the difficulties his predecessor Cardinal Desmond Connell had with the Vatican when he tried to get its various offices to help him deal with a priest abuser.

"For a good period of time the Holy See wasn't responding adequately and in fact, at times, was causing great difficulty.

"I think of my predecessor Cardinal Connell who went to the Holy See and many different congregations with a difficult case and came back extremely upset at the fact that he wasn't listened to."

Though Dr Martin did not specify who the priest involved was, it is likely he was referring to Dr Connell's efforts to deal with the notorious paedophile and "singing priest" Fr Tony Walsh.

The archbishop also took aim at some of the organisers of the Vatican abuse summit, which takes place from February 21-24, over their assertion that clerical abuse was something that came to public attention in the US in 2002 with the release of thousands of documents implicating Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston in a major cover-up.

"I was a bit surprised to hear some comments by the organisers saying that this was something that came to public attention in the United States in 2002. The Irish Church had norms in 1996."

He said the problems of clerical abuse in the Irish Church were "acute" as far back as 1975: "The level of abuse was acute - it wasn't being dealt with properly."

Dr Martin, who will not be attending the Rome gathering, said Pope Francis had placed a lot of hope and trust in the summit and it was important the bishops responded to that.

"There are still many challenges to be faced. The situation in different parts of the world is different, said Dr Martin. "We have done a lot in Ireland."

But he also warned against sitting back and becoming complacent.

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