Our main concern 'was the healing of victims'
'The only way that we will regain that credibility is through our humiliation'
CARDINAL Sean Brady yesterday insisted victims were the main concern right throughout the talks between 24 Irish bishops and the Pope.
The leader of the delegation, Dr Brady, Primate of all Ireland, said he was pleased that the meeting had taken place "because it is extremely clear that the Holy Father is extremely concerned about this issue".
"The meeting was to help the Holy Father put the final touches to his Pastoral Letter which will address victims appropriately," the cardinal continued.
"I have no doubt about that. The discussion was frank, the difficulties were raised but at the centre of it all was the concern how to help victims heal completely."
Pope Benedict confirmed that his letter will be published before the end of the 40 days of Lent, which began today.
An animated Dr Brady responded vigorously to a suggestion that the Vatican was evading its culpability for the culture of cover-ups by scapegoating the bishops for the scandals in Ireland.
"We do not feel scapegoats," Dr Brady added.
"In fact we are very encouraged by the indications from the Curia cardinals of their help in this situation. They want to help in their various disciplines. That is why they were there."
The bishops of Meath, Ferns, Clogher and Achonry all agreed with Dr Brady that the Pope was "a marvellous listener" and that the Rome talks were not the end of the process but the beginning of a new phase in their ongoing aim of providing healing for the victims and making the protection of children their number one priority.
The bishops said the two days of talks with the 82-year-old Pope had been "clear and frank" but dismissed suggestions that they had been subjected to a dressing down.
"It was very, very painful for him to hear of these stories of abuse first hand," said the Bishop of Ferns, Denis Brennan.
"We all know that there's great anger out there and it's richly deserved. We accept that and we understand it."
The failure to tackle decades of child abuse by priests had created a "rupture" between the church and Irish society, he said.
"We are determined to regain the trust of the Irish people but we know it won't be quick or easy."
Dr Brady said the church realised it had to show "real penance, a change of heart" in order to win back the trust of Ireland's faithful.
"There have been failures in our leadership, and as one of the victim's daughters said, the only way we will regain that credibility is through our humiliation," he said.