Wednesday 24 July 2019

Pope Francis speech: Calls clerical abuse scandal in Ireland 'repugnant', makes thinly-veiled reference to abortion referendum

  • Pope: Measures must be taken in response to 'betrayal of trust'
  • Warns about culture that doesn't respect the unborn
  • Varadkar: Church must acknowledge same-sex families and adopt zero tolerance towards abusers
Saturday 25 August 2018. Photo: Douglas O’Connor. Papal vist, St. Patrick’s Hall, Dublin Castle. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Pope Francis.
Saturday 25 August 2018. Photo: Douglas O’Connor. Papal vist, St. Patrick’s Hall, Dublin Castle. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Pope Francis.
Pope Francis and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle. Photo: Maxwells
Pope Francis as he arrives at Dublin Airport. Photo: MAXWELLS
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

MEASURES must be taken in response to the “betrayal of trust” and "repugnant" abuse inflicted on abuse victims in Ireland, Pope Francis has said.

In his first public statement since arriving in Dublin, the Pontiff said the Catholic Church must work to “remedy past mistakes and to adopt stringent norms meant to ensure that they do not happen again”.

Speaking in front of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin Castle, Pope Francis also risked raising the temperature around his visit with a thinly-veiled reference to the abortion referendum.

He questioned whether a “materialistic ‘throwaway culture’” has made people “increasingly indifferent to the poor and to the most defenceless members of our human family, including the unborn, deprived of the very right to life”.

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Pope Francis ahead of his speech in St Patrick's Hall at Dublin Castle, Dublin, as part of his visit to Ireland. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

However, the Taoiseach told the audience that Ireland has "voted in our parliament and by referendum to modernise our laws - understanding that marriages do not always work, that women should make their own decisions, and that families come in many forms including those headed by a grandparent, lone parent or same-sex parents or parents who are divorced".

He added: "Holy Father, I believe that the time has now come for us to build a new relationship between church and state in Ireland - a new covenant for the 21st Century. 

"It is my hope that your visit marks the opening of a new chapter in the relationship between Ireland and the Catholic Church."

Pope Francis went on to praise those who worked to bring about the Good Friday Agreement and 20 years of peace in Northern Ireland.

However, most attention was a section of his contribution – made in Italian – where he acknowledged how the Church had failed the “most vulnerable”.

“I cannot fail to acknowledge the grave scandal caused in Ireland by the abuse of young people by members of the Church charged with responsibility for their protection and education,” he said.

Pope Francis arrives at Croke Park Stadium in Dublin, to join an audience of 82,500 and hear five testimonies by families from Ireland, Canada, Iraq, and Africa, during the Festival of Families event, as part of his visit to Ireland. Photo: Aaron Chown/PA Wire
Pope Francis arrives at Croke Park Stadium in Dublin, to join an audience of 82,500 and hear five testimonies by families from Ireland, Canada, Iraq, and Africa, during the Festival of Families event, as part of his visit to Ireland. Photo: Aaron Chown/PA Wire
Pope Francis joins an audience of 82,500 at Croke Park Stadium in Dublin during the Festival of Families event, as part of his visit to Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday August 25, 2018. See PA story IRISH Pope. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Pope Francis waves as he attends the Festival of Families at Croke Park during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis waves as he attends the Festival of Families at Croke Park during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis leaves the Pro Cathedral after speaking at a couples ceremony. Photo: Tony Gavin
Pope Francis waves to the waiting crowds on Christchurch, Dublin as he travels in the Popemobile during his visit to Ireland. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Pope Francis joins an audience of 82,500 at Croke Park Stadium in Dublin during the Festival of Families event, as part of his visit to Ireland. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Hugh Carroll, from Eastwall, Picture: Caroline Quinn
Marian Shiels, from Ballinteer, Dublin, with children; Veronica, 12, Mary Anne, 4, Angelina, 8, and John Paul, 11, waiting for Pope Francis to pass by on the the Popemobile. O'Connell Bridge, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Repafadzo and Edinah Benjamin, from Chapelizod (originally Zimbabwe) waiting for Pope Francis to pass by on the the Popemobile. O'Connell Bridge, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Jorge Totsuka, from Leon, Mexico, with daughters Andrea, 12, and April, 4, (asleep) await Pope Francis Picture: Caroline Quinn
April Totsuka, 4, from Leon Mexico Picture: Caroline Quinn
Pope Francis laughs as he leaves St Mary's Pro Cathedral during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Members of the public wait for Pope Francis on O'Connell Street in Dublin ahead of him passing on his Popemobile during his visit to Ireland.Photo: Manny Lawson/PA Wire
Pauline Gallagher (right) with her daughters Amelia and Alana after seeing Pope Francis on College Green, Dublin, as he travels in the Popemobile during his visit to Ireland. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Pope Francis waves to the waiting crowds on College Green, Dublin, as he travels in the Popemobile during his visit to Ireland. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Pope Francis visits O'Connell Street Dublin
Pope Francis makes his way through College Green in Dublin. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Pope Francis arrives by Pope Mobile at the Pro Cathedral. Photo: Tony Gavin 25/8/2018
Pope Francis waves to the waiting crowds as he travels in the Popemobile through Dublin during his visit to Ireland. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Pope Francis arrives at Dublin Castle for a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, in Dublin, Ireland, Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018. Pope Francis is on a two-day visit to Ireland. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Saturday 25 August 2018. Photo: Douglas O’Connor. Papal vist, St. Patrick’s Hall, Dublin Castle. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Pope Francis.
Pope Francis arrives for a visit to St Mary's Pro Cathedral in Dublin to meet with recently-married couples, and couples preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage, as part of his visit to Ireland. Photo: Aaron Chown/PA Wire
Protesters demonstrate on the Ha'Penny Bridge during the visit of Pope Francis in Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

“The failure of ecclesiastical authorities – bishops, religious superiors, priests and others – to adequately address these repugnant crimes has rightly given rise to outrage, and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community. I myself share those sentiments.”

The Pope praised his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who he said “spared no words in recognising both the gravity of the situation” and made “frank and decisive intervention”.

Pope Francis said the Church in Ireland “past and present” has played a role in promoting the welfare of children.

“It is my hope that the gravity of the abuse scandals, which have cast light on the failings of many, will serve to emphasise the importance of the protection of minors and vulnerable adults on the part of society as a whole.

“In this regard, all of us area aware of how urgent it is to provide our young people with wise guidance and sound values on their journey to maturity,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said the Church was meant to be a place of charity, forgiveness and compassion - but "far too often there was judgement, severity and cruelty, in particular, towards women and children and those on the margins".  

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Taoiseach Leo Varadakar welcomes Pope Francis ahead of his speech in St Patrick's Hall at Dublin Castle, Dublin Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

He cited Magdalene Laundries, Mother and Baby Homes, industrial schools, illegal adoptions and clerical child abuse as "stains on our State, our society and also the Catholic Church". 

"Wounds are still open and there is much to be done to bring about justice and truth and healing for victims and survivors," Mr Varadkar said. 

He asked the Pope to use his office and influence to ensure there is "zero tolerance for those who abuse innocent children or who facilitate that abuse".

The speech was made in front of guests, including members of the LGBTI community, who were invited by the Government.

Other attendees included ministers, politicians from the main parties, , MEPs, members of the judiciary, the Civil Service, and the Diplomatic Corps from over 50 countries.

Representatives from Northern Ireland in attendance include members of Sinn Fein, Alliance Party, the SDLP and the Ulster Unionist Party, along with the Lord Mayor of Belfast and school children from Derry. The UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is also in attendance.

Pope Francis made specific reference to the situation in the North, describing the Troubles as a “long conflict that separated brothers and sisters of a single family”.

Praising the Good Friday Agreement, he said all sides had worked together to create “a dynamic context for the peaceful settlement of a conflict that had caused untold pain on both sides”.

“We can give thanks for two decades of peace that followed his historic agreement, while expressing firm hope that the peace process will overcome every remaining obstacle and help give birth to a future of harmony, reconciliation and mutual trust.”

In closing, the Pope noted that 90 years ago the Holy See was among the first international institutions to recognise the Irish Free State.

“The threads of that history reach back over a millennium and  half ago, when the Christian message, preached by Palladius and Patrick, found a home in Ireland and became an integral part of Irish life and culture.

“Many 'saints and scholars' were inspired to leave these shores and bring their newfound faith to other lands," he said.

In his speech Mr Varadkar expressed a hope that "during a future visit", the Pope would visit Northern Ireland.

He praised the Catholic Church for providing "education to our children when the State did not, in the open air next to hedgerows and in the schools and educational institutions they built".

"They founded our oldest hospitals, staffed them, and provided welfare for so many of our people.  "We think of the many wonderful organizations today who continue that work, like St. Vincent de Paul to name just one."

And Mr Varadkar said that "even today, as we struggle with a housing shortage and homelessness, Catholic organisations and people inspired by their Catholic faith fill a gap in providing services, for example, through organisations like CrossCare".

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