In an address reproduced below, he told those attending the closing ceremony of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin’s Croke Park that the Church had been shaken in an appalling way by the revelation of sins by priests against people entrusted to their care.
“Instead of showing them the path towards Christ, towards God; instead of bearing witness to His goodness, they abused people and undermined the credibility of the Church’s message.
“How are we to explain the fact that people who regularly received the Lord’s body and confessed their sins in the sacrament of penance have offended in this way? It remains a mystery. Yet evidently their Christianity was no longer nourished by joyful encounter with Jesus Christ; it had become merely a matter of habit.”
Congress president and Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said they had kept in their prayers and hearts all those who suffered “criminal abuse” within the Church.
They had also prayed for all those who felt in any way alienated from the Church and who have not experienced the love of Jesus Christ.
He said that one week ago they had set out on a journey of prayer and reflection, of song and silence, of renewal of their hearts and renewal of their Church.
“In these eight days the eucharist has awakened in our hearts something that went way beyond our plans and expectations,” he said.
Congress general secretary Fr Kevin Doran said it was the beginning of a new chapter for the Church in Ireland in how people lived their faith.
He hoped for an increased and richer participation in the eucharist and that between each Sunday Mass, people would look at how they lived with one another in society.
President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny attended the ceremony that started at 1pm and ended just after 5pm.
The presenters of The Gathering prior to the Mass were RTÉ newsreader Eileen Dunne and Liveline presenter Joe Duffy.
Singers included The Three Tenors, The Priests, Fr Liam Lawton, soprano Celine Byrne, and the Palestrina Choir.
While about 75,000 had tickets for the Statio Orbis ceremony, not all those who had tickets attended.
Among those attending were 177 pilgrims who had attended the 31st Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in 1932 with their families.
Three of the pilgrims were 99 years old and some insisted on climbing all the steps to the Hogan Stand.
A spokeswoman for thet congress said it sold over 75,000 tickets for the event and that plans had been made for 250 coaches to drop and collect pilgrims in a massive logistical operations on the Dublin’s streets. However, some of the expected coaches did not arrive.
Croke Park has an 82,000 capacity. Tickets for the event cost €10 and organisers had expected up to 80,000 to attend.