Actions will be test of new covenant
In his speech to mark the visit of Pope Francis, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he believed that the time had now come to build a new relationship between church and State in Ireland, what he called "a new covenant for the 21st Century". It was his hope that the visit of the Pope would mark the opening of a new chapter in the relationship between Ireland and the Catholic Church. Undoubtedly, the hope expressed by Mr Varadkar will be shared by many people and not just the faithful, while mindful also, as the Taoiseach said, that religion is no longer the centre of our society but within which it still has an important place.
From verses of the Bible, it is apparent that under a new covenant, the sins of the past must be forgiven. It will be some time yet before we know whether the visit of Pope Francis heralds a forgiveness of the sins of the church, particularly against the abused children of Ireland and others, mostly women. In time, perhaps, the visit will come to be seen as the most significant milestone yet on the continuing journey toward forgiveness and reconciliation.
In his speech, Mr Varadkar also highlighted the failures of the State in the past, and indeed of "wider society", which he said had created a bitter and broken heritage for so many, leaving a legacy of pain and suffering. It was appropriate that he should so do. The failures of State, and of wider society, are sometimes not as widely recognised as they properly should be in what is an understandable need to apportion blame at those who most immediately inflicted grievous harm on the most vulnerable and innocent within society.