Tuesday 21 January 2020

Pontiff angry over handling of abuse, says Archbishop

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin during Ash Wednesday Mass at Belfield Church, UCD. Niall Carson/PA wirE

Ciaran Byrne

POPE Benedict is personally angry over the treatment of Ireland's clerical sex-abuse victims and wants to know how his Irish bishops got things so badly wrong, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin disclosed yesterday.

He said the two-day Vatican meeting between the Pope and Ireland's 24 bishops was only "the start" of a long process.

The archbishop also hinted that a meeting between Irish abuse victims and the Pope was now a possibility.

After abuse victims and support groups had expressed their fury over the apparent lack of action from the summit, Dr Martin moved yesterday to reassure them and said they "should not lose heart".

Speaking at an Ash Wednesday service at UCD, he said he believed the Pope understood the sense of anger in Ireland.

"I am angry. He (the Pope) is angry about what happened," said Dr Martin.

"He wants to see how it is that people who are intelligent and good people got this wrong."

A meeting between survivors and the Pope, a key demand of some abuse survivors, appears to be moving closer.

The archbishop said: "The question of meetings was not excluded. The Pope has met with survivors in a number of countries.

"He has always done so rather quietly and it is announced afterwards.

"It is to avoid the fact that this could become a media event, rather than a genuine listening to people in the serenity that a thing like that requires. So nothing is excluded."

Dr Martin will himself meet abuse survivors, including Marie Collins and Andrew Madden, on Friday to discuss the outcome of his meeting with the Pontiff.

Pastoral letter

The second-most-powerful figure in the Irish church said: "This is part of a process. We met the Pope, there will be a pastoral letter, there are other things which will happen. Not everything happens the first time."

The archbishop said he did not know what the Pope would say in his pastoral letter.

"This is a letter from the Pope to the church in Ireland. It is not a letter from the bishops in Ireland writing to themselves.

"That is why we have a Pope and the Pope has his own responsibilities in the church."

Dr Martin promised that all of the issues and questions raised by abuse survivors would eventually be looked at.

"Those messages we received from the survivors were presented to the Pope. They will be looked at. There was no turning back on the Murphy Report, which was one of their requests, no denial of that whatsoever and the question of meetings was not excluded."

He was asked if the Pope took some of the blame for what happened in Ireland.

"The calling of the entire meeting clearly stressed that this was a moment of great concern," he said.

"There comes a time when apologies, just repeating the word apology, may even be empty.

"The Pope was distressed at what happened, particularly in this diocese of Dublin, what's recorded in the Murphy Report."

Dr Martin also dismissed rumours of a rift with fellow bishops after he had missed a press conference in Rome that was hosted by Primate Cardinal Sean Brady.

He said: "The original invitation said the meeting would end at lunch hour, so the bishops who wanted to be in their dioceses for Ash Wednesday could be there. I booked a flight at that stage.

"My travel plans were made well before any press conference was talked about."

Irish Independent

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