Papal visit: Number of children abused by priests ‘immense’, says archbishop

Papal visit: Number of children abused by priests ‘immense’, says archbishop

Latest: The Archbishop of Dublin has said the number of children abused by priests in Ireland is “immense” and called for an easier judicial system for victims giving evidence in court.

Speaking on the second day of the World Meeting of Families (WMOF), Diarmuid Martin said the number of prosecutions of clerical abuse is “very low”.

It comes days after Pope Francis condemned the “atrocities” of child sex abuse and cover-ups by the clergy in an open letter.

The pontiff arrives in Ireland on Saturday as part of the WMOF event in Dublin, and will meet victims of clerical sex abuse during his visit.

At a press briefing on Wednesday, Dr Martin was asked by a member of the media if he feels he is on trial after he and the Pope apologised to abuse survivors.

He said: “No, first of all I haven’t just said sorry. We have done a lot in the Archdiocese of Dublin.

“I provided the Government (child abuse) commission with 80,000 documents and the chairman said it was the most of substantive of contributions to that process.

“I believe the truth will make you free even if it’s unpleasant and it’s far better we work together.

“I said that the factors that contribute and protect abusers have to be addressed definitively everywhere.

“It’s sad we have to repeat that phrase all the time.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)

“In Ireland we have made extraordinary progress. We have mandatory reporting obligations and carry those out within a day as soon as we find a substantial allegation and we follow up on them.

“We have good relations of trust with the police and health authorities. Particularly in Ireland because of the industrial schools, the day schools, the Magdalene laundries, the mother and baby homes, the children abused by priests in parishes, the numbers of those abused is immense and the numbers that have come forward is only proportionate of that and there are many people holding in their hearts the sadness of abuse.

“The number of prosecutions is also very low and because of the system in our courts, it’s not an easy thing for someone to appear and tell their story in court.

“There may be ways in which the judicial system could make it easier for people in court.”

Teresa Kettlekamp, of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in the US, said she feels “embarrassed and disappointed” by clerical abuse.

Ms Kettlekamp said that having read a grand jury report on the extent of sexual abuse in Pennsylvania, she feels she did not know if she had all the facts of what the church knew.

She also said that when she hears of child sex abuse by members of the Catholic Church, she feels she has “failed”.

“All of us Catholics feel deep disappointment in what our church leaders have done and failed to do,” she said.

“When a church person fails it reflects on me as a Catholic as I’m proud to be a Catholic, and it’s hard to hold your head up high when you have front page after front page saying the sins of your fellow Catholic.

“It’s embarrassing, it’s frustrating, it’s sad and I have no words to defend it.”

The church leaders and representatives also addressed issues surrounding the exclusion of the LGBT community from the WMOF event.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell said: “It is, for us and the church, extremely important that all Catholics understand that we are all created in the likeness and image of God, that if a person has a same-sex attraction then they too are children of God.

“They have to be welcomed into our churches. They have to be received by and treated with respect and dignity by all people.

“We need to build bridges and need to communicate.”

- Press Association

For more information, see connectcounselling.ie.

Earlier: Popemobile visit through Dublin city centre confirmed

Assistant Garda Commissioner Pat Leahy has said that the Pope's visit this weekend is one of the largest people and traffic management projects he has been involved in.

"It's hard to imagine what half a million people look like," said Mr Leahy.

Speaking to Miriam O'Callaghan on RTÉ Radio 1 this morning, he confirmed that Pope Francis will make his way through the city centre giving around 100,000 people the opportunity to see him.

Papal visit: Number of children abused by priests ‘immense’, says archbishop

The journey across the city centre will take place around 4.15pm following a route up O'Connell St, Westmoreland St and Dame St.

"We're ready to go, the planning that has gone into this is enormous," Mr Leahy said.

Responding to criticism surrounding the delivery of information about road closures and other details, Mr Leahy said that they can't give out information before they have a definitive answer, saying that information around these kind of events does come out slowly.

"What we would like to get out there to people who feel like they're going to be trapped as a consequence of the road closures that are there is that we will really, really attempt to facilitate everyone who lives in the control zone -people getting in and out.

"They need to approach the Guards and talk to them. We'll facilitate everything that is possible on the day despite the fact that there are road closures in place if we can get people in and out of their homes safely then we'll do that."

However, he said that there will be times - particularly after the event ends - that it will be "physically impossible" for people to move their vehicles in and out.

"The M50 is open on both days... there will be some restrictions on the Sunday where you won't get by, the Port Tunnel is open for business, the East Link is open for business."

Mr Leahy emphasised that the city "is not in lock down".

Listen to the full interview with Pat Leahy below:

Earlier: Homeless charity 'confident' homeless will not be left out in cold during Papal visit

The Peter McVerry Trust says it is putting in as much preparation as it did for storms Emma and Ophelia to provide shelter for the homeless during the Papal visit.

A number of hotels that had been providing emergency accommodation have been booked out for the World Meeting of Families.

CEO of the national housing and homeless charity Pat Doyle says they are doing everything they can to be ready for a very busy weekend.

Pat Doyle
Pat Doyle

"We'll be there, we'll be out, we'll be 24-hours and in constant contact with the DRHE [Dublin Region Homeless Executive]," said Mr Doyle.

"We are holding back some family accommodation for any families that ring in at the eleventh hour that can't get a hotel because they are fully booked out

"We'll make sure that any family that needs accommodation gets it."

The homeless charity says it's confident the homeless won't be left out in the cold during the Pope's visit.

Mr Doyle says one of their biggest priorities is making sure they can get staff into the city through all the restrictions.

"We've 755 beds across the city and we want to make sure that we have staff to manage them so we're looking at staff and their access into the city.

"Those who can't get in, we have taken them off the shifts and asked others to work overtime.

"We've been assured by the civil authorities and the guards that we would have access and where we don't have access by van or by bus, we will pound the street.

"We will have access to all areas."

Earlier: Pope's visit an opportunity to end the cover-ups says O'Neill

The Pope's visit to Ireland is an opportunity to end the cover-up of abuse, Sinn Féin's vice-president said.

Michelle O'Neill will not be able to attend any of this weekend's events after she broke her leg in an accident.

Papal visit: Number of children abused by priests ‘immense’, says archbishop

She recognised the visit's significance for all Catholics.

"We must specifically acknowledge the damage done by the Catholic Church to the lives of many women and children in the mother and baby homes, the Magdalene laundries and a succession of abuse scandals and cover-ups.

The visit of Pope Francis is an opportunity to address these issues, to meet with victims and survivors, to fully acknowledge their suffering and the damage done, to end the cover-ups and to commit to full redress, north and south.

Newry and Armagh Assembly member Conor Murphy will deputise for the party's vice-president at this weekend's events.

Mrs O'Neill added: "The visit of Pope Francis can and should contribute to the new and positive relationship which has been developing between the Irish state and the Catholic Church."

Earlier: Victims of clerical sex abuse want Pope to 'understand what the church has done'

The first events of the Catholic Church's World Meeting of Families get underway in Dublin today.

They conclude with a two-day visit to Ireland by the Pope this weekend.

The opening ceremony of the World Meeting of Families. Pic: Niall Carson/PA
The opening ceremony of the World Meeting of Families. Pic: Niall Carson/PA

Last night, bells rang out in all 26 dioceses across the country to mark the start of the World Meeting of Families.

It begins today with a three-day pastoral congress at Dublin's RDS which includes discussions, workshops and prayerful activities.

It's all ahead of the arrival of Pope Francis this weekend, which will see him visit the likes of Croke Park and Knock Shrine before saying mass for half a million people at the Phoenix Park.

The pontiff has released a message ahead of his trip here:

As I prepare to visit Ireland in a few days for the World Meeting of Families, I send a warm word of greeting to all the Irish people. As you know the World Meeting is a celebration of the beauty of God's plan for the family.

Once he arrives, the pope will be under pressure to apologise to victims of clerical sex abuse.

The Pontiff has agreed to meet victims of clerical sex abuse while he is here - but survivors say they want more than just words.

Peter Mulryan's mother was locked up in a church-run Magdalene Laundry for 30 years, he says he has waited a lifetime for a Papal apology.

"I want to hear him loud and clear and to recognise that he understands what the church has done to the citizens of this country. What it has done to them, to the vulnerable people," said Mr Mulryan.

Yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar called for mandatory reporting of sex crimes within the church.

Meanwhile, campaigners say the Catholic church needs to stop stigmatising LGBT people.

The 'Equal Future 2018' coalition says LGBT families have been 'made invisible' at the World Meeting of Families due to church intolerance.

The campaign includes Catholic LGBT groups around the world.

Spokesperson Tiernan Brady says the church can do untold damage to LGBT young people: "Whether you are a person of faith or whether you aren't, you still feel the impact of the church when it makes statements and rulings and teachings about LGBT people."

Digital Desk

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