Pope Benedict XVI realises that Irish society has been "deeply pained" by the sexual abuse of children by paedophile priests, the new Papal Nuncio revealed yesterday.
In his first public statement since arriving in Ireland last month Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza (65) said he regretted "the injury inflicted on innocent people and their families, by churchmen whose conduct has been in stark contrast to their priestly calling and religious obligations".
Recalling a private audience with the Pope on April 11, the Sicilian-born archbishop said that the Pontiff asked him to convey his apostolic blessing as well his concern that Ireland should remain ever faithful to the Catholic faith.
Archbishop Leanza was delivering an homily at a liturgical reception in St Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin on Saturday, during which he quoted the instructions given by Pope Benedict to the Irish bishops two years ago.
At that time, Pope Benedict had said: "It is important to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes."
In this "New Ireland", the archbishop said the Catholic Church was called to face new challenges, not least "the growing influence of secularism in society, the dramatic drop in vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and the deep crisis that has tarnished what is called to be a spotless image."
He described the Ireland of today as a country that enjoys political and social stability, a country that has achieved extraordinary economic growth with peace existing in every corner of the island.
Archbishop Leanza noted that the country had also opened its arms very generously to people who have come to it from the four corners of the earth in search of a new life.
"I am convinced that the Irish people will find a way, as they have in the past, to face them with serenity and a great sense of responsibility, their hearts set on the common good."
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who formally welcomed the Nuncio, assured Archbishop Leanza that the Pope's instructions were being followed by his clergy in Dublin.