The new Papal Nuncio began his mission to Ireland by echoing the words of Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin in pledging to help heal a “wounded” Church.
At the liturgical reception for Archbishop Charles J Brown, the new Apostolic Nuncio said Pope Benedict had been “scandalised and dismayed” over the abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests.
The comments from both men, made at Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral, come as the row over the closure of Ireland’s Embassy in the Vatican rumbled on.
In welcoming Archbishop Brown to Dublin, Archbishop Martin said pointedly: “The diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Ireland have been fruitful in fostering the interests of Ireland, of the Holy See and of our common interests in the good of the human family.”
Afterwards Dr Martin said he was confident the Irish embassy to the Vatican would reopen “in some other way” — only for the Department of Foreign Affairs to reiterate that its decision to close the Vatican embassy would not be reviewed.
Archbishop Brown’s predecessor, Giuseppe Leanza, became embroiled in friction between the Government and Rome over the fall-out from the clerical child sex abuse scandals, but yesterday his American successor said the Vatican was committed to dealing with abuse and abusers.
“Pope Benedict was scandalised and dismayed as he learned about the tragedy of abuse perpetrated by some members of the clergy and of religious congregations,” he said. “He felt deeply the wounds of those who had been harmed and who so often had not been listened to.
“From the beginning, Pope Benedict was resolute and determined to put into place changes which would give the Church the ability to deal more effectively with those who abuse trust, as well as to provide the necessary assistance to those who had been victimised. Pope Benedict has been relentless and consistent on this front, and I assure you that he will continue to be.”
He also said the Church could be a place of healing.
“The Church herself is wounded by the sins of her members,” he told the congregation. “And just as sin produces a kind of spiritual paralysis in the individual, a radical lack of the spiritual energy which is grace, so too there can be a kind of spiritual paralysis in sections of the Church, where that energy seems to have disappeared, enthusiasm is dissipated, liturgical life grows cold.”
Perhaps referring to the context of the row between Dublin and Rome last year over the alleged lack of co-operation in child abuse probes, Archbishop Brown said: “Sin should not be understood primarily as a breaking of a rule or as violating the regulations. Sin is not, in the first instance, something legal.”
He said sin was “a spiritual disease which afflicts us, which can paralyse us” but which could be healed through the Church, particularly through the Holy Eucharist.
“The Holy See and Ireland have deep-rooted links, which go back long into our history,” he said
“International relations and diplomacy are concerned not just with the political and economic challenges of the day, no matter how vital, but with the fundamental values and aspirations of people which must then shape relations between peoples and States and in this context the Holy See plays a vital role.”
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