Pope Benedict says the reasons for clerical abuse are still ‘a mystery’
POPE Benedict yesterday claimed the explanation for the clerical abuse of children remained a "mystery" and added that the scandals had undermined the church's message.
But the Pontiff did not directly engage with abuse survivors in his much-anticipated pre-recorded video address to Irish Catholics at the close of the Eucharistic Congress.
Nor did he reiterate the apology offered in his pastoral letter, which was issued in March 2010.
In a message to tens of thousands of people in Dublin's Croke Park, 120 words out of the 1,167 that made up the address were devoted to the clerical abuse issue.
Pilgrims greeted the message with three rounds of applause and a standing ovation.
"Thankfulness and joy at such a great history of faith and love have recently been shaken in an appalling way by the revelation of sins committed by priests and consecrated persons against people entrusted to their care," Pope Benedict said.
"Instead of showing them the path towards Christ, towards God, instead of bearing witness to his goodness, they abused people and undermined the credibility of the church's message.
"How are we to explain the fact that people who regularly received the Lord's body and confessed their sins in the sacrament of penance have offended in this way? It remains a mystery."
The papal message was seen by many pilgrims as the high-point of the closing ceremony -- or Statio Orbis -- of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress.
Proceedings began shortly after 1pm with performances from singers The Priests, The Three Tenors, soprano Celine Byrne, the RTE Concert Orchestra and the Palestrina Choir.
Although there were some empty seats around the stands in Croke Park, organisers said between 75,000 and 80,000 tickets had been allocated. The pitch was laid out with seating for about 10,000 people.
President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny were among the attendees.
A Mass, celebrated by Papal Legate Cardinal Marc Ouellet and concelebrated by several bishops and archbishops including All-Ireland primate Cardinal Sean Brady and Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, followed the musical performances.
Pope Benedict XVI's appearance on two large screens beside the stage was greeted with rapture.
The Pope said generations of monks, martyrs and missionaries had "heroically lived the faith at home and spread the good news of God's love and forgiveness well beyond your shores".
"You are the heirs to a church that has been a mighty force for good in the world, and which has given a profound and enduring love of Christ and his blessed mother to many, many others," he said.
"Your forebears in the church in Ireland knew how to strive for holiness and constancy in their personal lives, how to preach the joy that comes from the Gospel, how to promote the importance of belonging to the universal church in communion with the See of Peter, and how to pass on a love of the faith and Christian virtue to other generations."
When he asked pilgrims to pray for the next International Eucharistic Congress in 2016 in the Philippines, the Pontiff received a round of applause.
Abuse survivor Marie Collins, who attended the Croke Park event, described the remarks of the Pope to the abuse crisis as a "passing reference".
"I was glad to be there but I'm still finding it very difficult to attend any religious events so it was difficult enough," she said.
"As a Catholic, I still have my faith, my belief, I don't have anything invested in the hierarchy or the institution, but I still like to celebrate my beliefs."
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who gave the closing remarks, said people must now go away with a renewed love for the church.
"In these eight days the Eucharist has awakened in our hearts something which went way beyond our plans and expectations," Dr Martin said.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who gave the homily during the Mass, said faith was the most "precious gift" received in baptism. "Let's not keep it private and fearful," he said.
Pilgrims spent €10 to attend the Statio Orbis, although free tickets were allocated to a special group of 1932 Eucharistic Congress veterans.
Dr Ouellet met a contingent of abuse survivors during the Congress and apologised to them during the meeting.