Humility and faith

Recovering from the tragedy of paedophilia

The Irish bishops had intensive talks and consultations with Benedict XVI on 15 and 16 February to discuss together with him the “very difficult situation” in which the Catholic Church of Ireland finds itself following the publication of two government Reports on abuses committed on children by ecclesiastical members in religious structures. The 24 Bishops of Ireland, accompanied by Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and President of the Bishops’ Conference, participated in the meeting with the Holy Father. The Holy See was represented by high-ranking members of the Secretariat of State, and by the heads of some offices of the Roman Curia, Cardinals Re, Levada, Hummes, Rodé, Grocholewski and Archbishop Coccopalmerio, as well as the Apostolic Nuncio of Ireland. A time of affliction. “For the Church afflictions can come from outside or from inside. Both are painful, but those that come from inside are naturally harder and more humiliating to bear”, said the Holy See’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone in the homily he gave during the mass celebrated at the tomb of St. Peter below St. Peter’s Basilica with the whole episcopate of Ireland, thus inaugurating the meeting that the 24 Irish Bishops would have with the Holy Father on the following day, 16 February. “You have come all together – said Cardinal Bertone – to listen to the Successor of Peter and to present to him your initiatives on the very difficult crisis that has developed in the Church of your country”. For this, “we invoke in a particular way the Holy Spirit, so that this meeting may be full of charity in truth and arouse renewed commitment to communion and unity between the Pastors and with the faithful assigned to them”. The Cardinal recalled that “affliction on the one hand humiliates, but on the other produces patience and a deepening of faith”. And he added: “But it’s not enough to be humiliated; we need to become humble in heart”. “Only if we attain genuine and sincere humility – said Cardinal Bertone -, can God’s grace act in depth and realize a true rebirth”. Only “God’s infinite mercy” “can fill the deepest abyss. It can do so, however, only if the sinner recognises his own guilt in the fullness of truth”. The Secretary of State then warned the Irish episcopate against “another temptation”: “that which makes us lose our faith in God, and plunges us into a state of discouragement and despair”. And he added: “Yes, storms are fearful. Even those that shake the vessel of the Church due to the sins of her members. But from these storms, by the grace of Christ, may spring the grace of conversion and a greater faith: when all our security has crumbled and we feel ourselves lost, it is easier to entrust ourselves totally to Him, the Lord”. So the Secretary of State’s advice to the bishops of Ireland is that of seeking roots in “humility and faith”: “that – he concluded – is what the Lord expects of us”.The Pope’s concern. “I’ve come to Rome many times in my life, but never with the many prayers that accompany me this time. I know the same goes for the Holy Father and for the members of the Curia. This is the third meeting on this question in the space of seven months! I think the Holy Father is very concerned”, said Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, describing the state of mind of the whole Irish episcopate in an interview with Vatican Radio during his visit to Rome. “This meeting – he continued – has had a very thorough preparation, but it’s only one step in a very long process: let’s hope that, on our return to Ireland, this will be translated into a process of repentance, renewal and reconciliation, for the good of everyone. Obviously, we are all aiming at the same objective, which is that of protecting children. We are also in agreement on the points that the Holy Father presented to us during our ‘ad Limina’ visit, which will need to be carefully studied by all those involved”.Listening to the victims. The Irish bishops had prepared for the meeting with the Holy Father by meeting the representatives of four associations of the survivors of abuses at Maynooth (near Dublin) last week (7 February). With the spokesmen of these associations – “Right to Peace”, “Alliance Support Group”, “Irish Soca” and “Right of Place” – the bishops discussed “the ongoing concerns of survivors” with the intention – explains a press release of the Irish Bishops’ Conference – to “relay these concerns to Pope Benedict XVI both verbally and in the form of the written submissions which were presented to us today by survivors and which directly represent their views”. During that meeting it was also agreed that a representative group of bishops would continue to meet with survivors. This is not the first time the Holy Father has met the Irish bishops. He did so already on 11 December last year, when he had a meeting in the Vatican with Cardinal Sean Brady, Metropolitan Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, and the Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin.

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