Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin tonight rejected claims a Vatican summit to discuss clerical abuse scandals in Ireland was a wasted opportunity.
The clergyman urged survivors not to lose heart after victims’ and support groups, who branded Pope Benedict’s response to the talks inadequate, claimed they had achieved nothing.
“Wasted opportunity I wouldn’t agree with – if people are dismayed then they have a right to be dismayed and I am prepared to listen to their dismay,” the archbishop said.
“I would never say that people have no right to be dismayed if they feel that what they wanted to be done wasn’t addressed.”
Victims were left furious after Pope Benedict brought the unprecedented two days of talks to a close but did not acknowledge Irish bishops covered up paedophilia among priests.
Twenty-four of the country’s senior clerics had been summoned to Rome to answer questions over the mishandling of sickening child abuse, subsequent investigations and the scandals exposed in the Ryan report into state-run institutions and the Murphy report into cover-ups in the Dublin Archdiocese.
The Pope did not formally apologise or mention the resignation of bishops.
“It was said even in advance that there would be no discussion. That is a matter between those who present their resignations and the Pope,” the archbishop said.
Many victims and support groups were also left bemused by the Pope’s explanation of paedophilia among priests after he claimed it was through a loss of faith.
But Archbishop Martin, who marked Ash Wednesday at a special Lenten Mass for students in University College Dublin, defended the Pontiff’s response and said he was both distressed and angered by the scandals.
He said: “He’s not saying that it’s the breakdown of faith in society, it’s the breakdown of faith of these people.”
Earlier, Bishop of Ferns Denis Brennan described the Vatican summit as a watershed.
The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre said survivors and victims were not surprised by the outcome of the Vatican meetings.
Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop, chief executive of DRCC, said: “It is quite unbelievable at this stage in the process that the Pope and the bishops don’t get it even yet.
“The Murphy report found that the Catholic Church in Ireland covered up the sexual abuse of children by its clergy.
“No acknowledgement of this cover-up was mentioned in the reports from the meeting nor was there any apology to the survivors. The victims were again ignored.”
Archbishop Martin claimed the summit was part of a process, to see how the abuse and cover-up can be addressed, why it happened and where the church is going.
“This is going to be a long road, it’s a long road of regret and repentance and that means addressing what’s happened in the past, what’s happening today and also looking to the future to make sure that our structures that are there continue to be as valid and robust as we want them to be,” he said.
“I’m as impatient as many others to get this thing right. I do believe that compared to some time ago there was a much greater understanding of what’s happened, that’s the first thing of what’s happened, that it did happen.”
The Pope is preparing a pastoral letter to Catholics in Ireland which church officials said will take into account the views of Irish bishops and will be issued before Easter.
Survivors of clerical abuse Marie Collins and Andrew Madden will meet Archbishop Martin on Friday along with Maeve Lewis of support group One in Four to discuss the Vatican talks.