Monday 22 July 2019

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

Pope Francis at the Phoenix Park, Dublin for the closing Mass at the World Meeting of Families, as part of his visit to Ireland. Photo: PA
Pope Francis at the Phoenix Park, Dublin for the closing Mass at the World Meeting of Families, as part of his visit to Ireland. Photo: PA

Ralph Riegel

POPE Francis used the final event of his two-day Irish Papal visit to again pray for clerical abuse victims.

The Pontiff, in a special meeting with Irish bishops held at the Convent of the Dominican Sisters in Dublin, also remembered the members of the Irish clergy whose "hurt and discouragement" over the abuse scandals often goes widely ignored.

Pope Francis met with Irish bishops before heading to Dublin Airport for his flight back to Rome amid a general consensus that his Irish visit, which threatened to be overshadowed by the abuse controversy, was a success.

The Pope met with abuse survivors on Saturday evening and used events in Dublin's Phoenix Park and Knock Shrine to pray for those who were betrayed by a minority of the clergy.

Pope Francis leads the World Meeting of Families closing mass in Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland, August 26, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Pope Francis leads the World Meeting of Families closing mass in Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland, August 26, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

"A recurrent theme of my visit, of course, has been the Church’s need to acknowledge and remedy, with evangelical honesty and courage, past failures with regard to the protection of children and vulnerable adults," he said.

"In recent years, you as a body have resolutely moved forward, not only by undertaking paths of purification and reconciliation with victims of abuse, but also, with the help of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Church in Ireland, by establishing a stringent set of norms aimed at ensuring the safety of young persons."

"In these years, all of us have had our eyes opened to the gravity and extent of sexual abuse in various social settings. In Ireland, as elsewhere, the honesty and integrity with which the Church chooses to confront this painful chapter of her history can offer an example and a warning to society as a whole."

But Pope Francis also mentioned the Irish clergy and the impact on them of the abuse scandals.

An aerial view of the crowd at Phoenix Park in Dublin as Pope Francis attends the closing Mass at the World Meeting of Families, as part of his visit to Ireland. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
An aerial view of the crowd at Phoenix Park in Dublin as Pope Francis attends the closing Mass at the World Meeting of Families, as part of his visit to Ireland. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

"I am also grateful for the support you (bishops) give to your priests, whose hurt and discouragement in the face of recent scandals is often ignored or underestimated," he said.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin had warned at the Phoenix Park open Mass that: "The faith in Ireland is strong - but the faith in Ireland is also fragile."

The Archbishop said the Irish Church would not forget the dark events revealed by the various controversies.

Pope Francis reminded Irish bishops of their responsibilities.

"All of us, as bishops, are conscious of our responsibility to be fathers to God’s holy and faithful people. As good fathers, we want to encourage and inspire, to reconcile and unify, and above all, to preserve all the good handed down from generation to generation in this great family which is the Church in Ireland."

"So, my word to you this evening is one of encouragement for your efforts, in these challenging times, to persevere in your ministry as heralds of the Gospel and shepherds of Christ’s flock. In a particular way, I am grateful for the concern you continue to show for the poor, the excluded and those in need of a helping hand, as witnessed most recently by your pastoral letters on the homeless and on substance misuse."

"The (Dublin) World Meeting of Families has given us great hope and encouragement that families are growing more and more conscious of their own irreplaceable role in passing on the faith."

"At the same time, Catholic schools and programmes of religious instruction continue to play an indispensable role in creating a culture of faith and a sense of missionary discipleship."

"I know that this is a source of pastoral concern for all of you."

"Genuine religious formation calls for faithful and joyful teachers who are able to shape not only minds but also hearts in the love of Christ and in the practice of prayer."

"The formation of such teachers and the expansion of programmes of adult education, are essential for the future of the Christian community.

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