Pope Francis asks forgiveness for abuse and cover-up

Pope Francis asks forgiveness for abuse and cover-up
Pope Francis delivers a speech in St Patrick's Hall at Dublin Castle. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

By Aoife Moore

The Pope has asked for forgiveness for the crimes of Church figures in Ireland as he laid bare a litany of abuse and mistreatment meted out to victims.

Addressing a large crowd at an open-air Mass in Dublin as his historic visit drew to a close, Francis said the Church hierarchy had been guilty of cover-ups and failing to show compassion.

Praying for the strength to achieve justice for the victims, the Pope referred to his private meeting with eight abuse survivors on Saturday evening, explaining that he wanted to take up what they had said to him.“We ask forgiveness for the abuses in Ireland, abuses of power, of conscience, and sexual abuses perpetrated by members with roles of responsibility in the Church,” he said.

In a special way, we ask pardon for all the abuses committed in various types of institutions run by male or female religious and by other members of the Church, and we ask for forgiveness for those cases of manual work that so many young women and men were subjected to. We ask forgiveness.

The reverberations of a litany of clerical sex crimes have cast a shadow over the first papal visit to Ireland since 1979.The Pope’s plea for forgiveness rang out around Phoenix Park, as elsewhere in Dublin survivors and campaigners protested against his visit.A vigil was held at the site of the mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway, where a mass grave containing around 800 infants not afforded proper burials was recently uncovered.The Pope told the pilgrims who braved the rain and a 3km hike to reach Phoenix Park: “We ask forgiveness for the times that, as a Church, we did not show the survivors of whatever kind of abuse the compassion and the seeking of justice and truth through concrete actions. We ask for forgiveness.“We ask for forgiveness for some of the Church hierarchy who did not take charge of these situations and kept quiet. We ask for forgiveness.

We ask for forgiveness for all those times in which many single mothers were told that to seek their children who had been separated from them — and the same being said to daughters and sons themselves — that this was a mortal sin.

“This is not a mortal sin. We ask for forgiveness.”The Pontiff ended by asking: “Give us the strength to work for justice. Amen.”His words were met with applause from the faithful.
Pope Francis waves to the waiting crowds on O'Connell St. Photo: PA Wire
Pope Francis waves to the waiting crowds on O'Connell St. Photo: PA Wire

One of the high-profile victims of the cancer screening scandal was part of the offertory gifts proceedings.

Emma Mhic Mhathúna, now terminally ill, was incorrectly told that her smear test results were normal, up until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2016.

Ms Mhic Mhathúna has been involved in a campaign for accountability regarding the cervical screening issue.

She was accompanied by her children, Natasha, Séamus, Mario, Oisín, and Donnacha, and friends Mai Uí Bhruic and Tomás Ó Bruic.

Joining Ms Mhic Mhathúna in the offertory procession was Olive Foley, widow of former Ireland rugby star and Munster head coach Anthony ‘Axel’ Foley, and their children Dan and Tony.

Mrs Foley spoke tearfully at the World Meeting of Families (WMOF 2018) earlier in the week about losing her husband aged 42.

Also involved were victims who had lost loved ones in the Omagh bombing.

Relatives of Mary Grimes, her pregnant daughter Avril Monaghan, 30, and granddaughter Maura, one, were all killed when the bomb went off in Omagh in 1998.

Paul and Bridget Uzo, and their children Stephanie and Kelvin, representatives of the African community in the Archdiocese of Dublin, also took up gifts, alongside a family involved in the “All Are Welcome” Mass in Avila, in Donnybrook, Dublin.

The WMOF 2018 closing Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in Phoenix Park marked one of the biggest events in Europe this year.

Tens of thousands of people attended the Mass, including up to 20,000 overseas visitors.

Well-wishers waved flags, cheered and reached out to touch the Pontiff as he was driven in his Popemobile through throngs of the faithful, who braved torrential rain.

A total of 500,000 free tickets were snapped up for the event but the inclement weather undoubtedly put many off attending, with some reports putting the attendance as low as 130,000.

Pope Francis arrives for a meeting with President Michael D Higgins. (Danny Lawson/PA Wire)
Pope Francis arrives for a meeting with President Michael D Higgins. (Danny Lawson/PA Wire)

A 12-hour programme of music, reflections, video, and drama entertained pilgrims both as they arrived and made their way home from the Phoenix Park.

The prelude featured performers from Ireland, England, America, Germany, France, India, and Canada.

The Mass itself heard Fr Liam Lawton, liturgical composer and priest of the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, joined by a 3,000 strong Papal Mass choir.

The Mass concludes the Pontiff’s two-day visit to Ireland.

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