Sunday 21 July 2019

'I will study report on Tuam' - Pope pledges to examine horrors of mother and baby home

Pope Francis wishing Archbishop Diarmuid Martin farewell at Dublin Airport as he departs after his visit. Photo: Maxwells
Pope Francis wishing Archbishop Diarmuid Martin farewell at Dublin Airport as he departs after his visit. Photo: Maxwells

Ralph Riegel in Rome

Pope Francis pledged to examine the horrors of the Tuam mother and baby home as he returned to the Vatican last night.

Infant bones have been found at the site, and up to 800 babies may have been buried in a septic tank at the home, which was managed by the Sisters of the Bon Secours between 1925 and 1961.

The issue was raised by Children's Minister Katherine Zappone, who met Pope Francis on Saturday. The Pope had known nothing of the controversy until then. And returning to Rome last night on board an Aer Lingus flight, the Pontiff pledged to look into the matter further.

He said that Ms Zappone had informed him: "'Holy Father we have found common graves, children buried. And we are investigating. The Church is involved in this.' But she said it in a very polite way, with much respect. I thanked her for this. It touched my heart, that is why I wanted to repeat it during my speech.

Catherine Corless and husband Aiden (Niall Carson/PA)
Catherine Corless and husband Aiden (Niall Carson/PA)

"Then she said she would send a memo. She was very, very balanced... But she let me know that the Church had something to look into.

"And now I have the memo that I will study at home."

It was the latest development in a weekend dominated by attempts to tackle the clerical abuse controversy in Ireland.

In a wide-ranging press conference, the Pope also said that parents should pray and not condemn their children if they tell them they are gay - and mentioned potentially taking them to a psychiatrist. And he claimed that the maternal instinct of women meant they were less likely to report abuse and often, it is parents who "cover up" the abuse of priests.

"Many times it is the parents (who) cover up abuse of priests. Many times. They don't believe or convince themselves," he said. "It is true that for a mother, better this (is) not true. If it were fantasy. Speak out to the right person. Speak with the magistrate, bishop, speak with the parish priest if he is a good one. (It) must not be covered up."

Pope Francis prayed for victims at Dublin's Phoenix Park, Knock Shrine and at a bishops' meeting while also describing the grim legacy of the controversy as a gaping "open wound" for the Church.

Read more: 'We have all had our eyes opened' - Pope Francis holds special meeting with Irish bishops

At the Phoenix Park, the Pontiff specifically asked for forgiveness for the hierarchy of the Church who didn't act to prevent or tackle abuse.

But last night, Pope Francis refused to respond to a public demand from a former Papal Nuncio calling on him to resign over the handling of clerical abuse in the United States.

Former Papal Nuncio to the US, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò (77), publicly called on the Pope to resign after issuing an 11-page dossier about alleged abuses and the failure to properly act on them.

Two pilgrims awaiting the Pope in Phoenix Park. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Two pilgrims awaiting the Pope in Phoenix Park. Photo: Gerry Mooney

However, Pope Francis refused to comment.

"I read the communique this morning. I will say sincerely to you who are interested - read carefully the communique and you judge," he said. "I will not say a word about this. I think it speaks for itself and you judge for yourself. With your professional maturity."

He was specifically asked about homosexuality by a Vatican journalist after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who is gay, praised the role same-sex couples now play as family units in Ireland.

"What do I say to a father if the son or daughter has this tendency? Pray not condemn. Understand - make space for your son or daughter to let them express themselves," the Pope said. "Maybe to do with a psychiatrist (if old enough). Silence is not a remedy - ignore (the) child is lack of being a parent."

Speaking about Ireland, the Pope said: "I found much faith in Ireland. Irish people suffered for scandals, but there is faith. People can distinguish from truth and half truths. It is in a process of healing. But Irish people have faith."

Pope Francis also said he will explain to abuse rights campaigner Marie Collins, in person at the Vatican, why he does not favour a special tribunal to try bishops worldwide for the failure to properly tackle clerical abuse cases.

"Marie Collins is a bit fixated - I hold her in high regard," he said. "At times we call her in the Vatican to give conferences on the idea of madre amorevole that it would be good to judge bishops... to have a special tribunal. But we saw this wasn't practical for different reasons - for the different cultures of the bishops that had to be judged.

"I told Marie the spirit of the recommendations will be done. But not the same tribunal, as it is not possible. She did not understand this. I care for her, when she comes to Rome I will explain to her."

Irish Independent

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