By David Raleigh
Update 4.45pm: Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy has said the evil of paedophilia must be rooted out of the church to rebuild the trust it has lost through a global clerical child sexual abuse scandal.
Leahy welcomed Pope Francis’ letter to all Catholics today condemning sexual abuse by priests around the world and subsequent cover-ups by senior church leaders.
He said the evil of abuse must be rooted out and asked for Catholics throughout the Diocese to pray in support of victims and reparation.
“There are absolutely no words good enough to adequately apologise for the abuse perpetrated by representatives of the Church and the abysmal failure to manage and report cases,” added Leahy.
“There can be no justification for any type of cover up anywhere.”
“Nothing that is said can take away the pain of those who have been abused and of their families. I completely accept that.”
“But it is essential that we acknowledge the darkness of what has happened.”
Leahy said: “The Pope has spoken before of his deep regret but I think it was important that he issued his letter today.”
“Straightaway the opening line is striking, ‘if one member suffers, all suffer’. It’s a clarion call.”
“There can be no let-up in our resolve and compunction to fight a reality that led to what the Pope calls ‘atrocities’.”
“One also has to question how did this evil, in the first instance, penetrate the very place, the Church, that is supposed to be a shrine for love and peace,” Leahy added.
“We have to work on this together and I am grateful to the lay people who have committed themselves to this in our Diocese: parish delegates, members of various advisory bodies, those engaged in training and publicity initiatives.”
“The Pope’s letter reminds us of how important this commitment is.”
“As he puts it, ‘we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history’.”
Leahy said the Church has “a lot to make up for”.
“People’s lives were destroyed by those who were supposed to protect them and this has understandably led to a trust issue.”
“Trust will never be regained unless we learn the lessons from the past and make sure that the most robust systems are in place so that this never happens again.”
He called on “anyone who has been abused or know of anyone who has been abused in this diocese to contact us.”
Leahy added: “We must not forget the power of prayer in this; we must pray for healing.”
“I would ask that, as an immediate response to Pope Francis’ letter, Catholics throughout the Diocese of Limerick to spend some time of prayer this coming Wednesday so that we can grow in the gift of compassion, in justice, prevention and reparation.”
Update 3.30pm: The Pope’s latest intervention on child abuse days before his visit to Ireland is too little too late, a campaigner said.
Pope Francis said the church had delayed action and urged a culture of care at present and in the future as he published a strongly-worded letter on the subject.
He arrives in Ireland this weekend.
Margaret McGuckin, leader of SAVIA (Survivors & Victims of Institutional Abuse), a charity set up to give a voice to victims of historic abuse in Northern Ireland, said: “It is a last-ditch attempt to see what he can do.
“It is too little too late, nothing will change.”
A Pennsylvania grand jury report published recently in the US found more than 300 priests abused more than 1,000 children.
The Pope expressed “shame and repentance”.
He added: “We acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realising the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives.
“We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”
The Pope is due to spend two days visiting Dublin and the Knock shrine in the West of Ireland this weekend.
He will meet President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, address a session of the World Meeting of Families and celebrate mass for half a million people at Phoenix Park.
Referring to the US abuse report, the pontiff noted that at least 1,000 survivors were victims of abuse at the hands of priests.
He said: “We have realised that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away.
“The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced.
“But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity.”
Ms McGuckin is urging a further public inquiry into clerical abuse in Northern Ireland.
When the Pope came to office in 2013, she thought he was a breath of fresh air.
She was left disillusioned after his decision to ordain a bishop in Chile who is accused of covering up sexual abuse committed by a priest.
The Pope said: “Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient.
“Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated.
“The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.”
- Press Association
Update 2.22pm: An Irish survivor of clerical sex abuse says the Pope’s comments on the matter do not go far enough.
In an unprecedented letter to all Catholics, he asks each of them to help uproot what he calls "this culture of death".
The Pope added that the Church should be able to acknowledge and condemn the atrocities with sorrow and shame and also says that the Church did not act in a timely manner.
Mark Vincent Healy was abused from the age of nine by two priests in Dublin in the 60s and 70s and he says there needs to be less talk and more action.
"I think he's sincere in the apology and what he is saying in sorrow terms," said Mr Healy.
"But we need a different paradigm. We need actions which will make a difference.
"And it's not his actions. he has to negotiate those actions with us and we have to talk to him about them. We need to sit down. We need to...open the files
"Let's get in there and discuss these things to move forward."
- Digital Desk