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Katherine Zappone: Church should share responsibility for Tuam scandal with State

CHILDREN’S Minister Katherine Zappone told the Pontiff that the Church should share responsibility for the scandal of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home with the State.

She has asked the Vatican to contribute to the cost of either excavating the bodies buried in a sewage system at the site or to create a memorial.

It is believed hundreds of infants belonging to unmarried mothers were buried in Tuam between 1925 and 1961.

During his address in Dublin Castle on Saturday, Pope Francis went off-script to mention his earlier conversation with Ms Zappone when she welcomed him to Ireland at Áras an Uachtaráin.

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Outside the venue of the meeting, hundreds of children's toys were laid out in a display by some residents of Tuam. At its centre was a sign saying: 'Bury our babies with dignity.' Photo: Ray Ryan

Outside the venue of the meeting, hundreds of children's toys were laid out in a display by some residents of Tuam. At its centre was a sign saying: 'Bury our babies with dignity.' Photo: Ray Ryan

Outside the venue of the meeting, hundreds of children's toys were laid out in a display by some residents of Tuam. At its centre was a sign saying: 'Bury our babies with dignity.' Photo: Ray Ryan

He said her words were echoing in his heart.

The minister has now revealed she only spoke to the leader of the Catholic Church in Italian for 30 seconds.

She said: “I am responsible for the Tuam Mother and Baby Home. Children’s remains were found in a sewage system there.

“I hope the Church will make reparation for its part in this shameful chapter. It is important and I will write to you in detail.”

Pope Francis replied in English, saying: “Thank you for saying that.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Miriam O’Callaghan, Ms Zappone said she practiced her piece repeatedly prior to meeting the Pope.

“As a professional I knew I wanted to get a very straight message. I’m just beginning learning Italian but I knew enough to communicate to him in his own language,” she said.

On his flight back to Rome last night, Pope Francis referenced the fact that he will now study a memo provided to him by the Minister.

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She intends to release the two page letter later today.

Ms Zappone said “a clear sense of recognition crossed his face” when she mentioned Tuam.

She admitted to being “blown away” when the Pope went on to reference their interaction during his Dublin Castle speech.

Asked whether Pope Francis should have visited the Tuam site while in Ireland, Ms Zappone replied: “I am certain that he is hearing the strength of what the people of Tuam are saying. He’s hearing the message and that’s the most important thing.”


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