It is a historical date, an important step in the renewal of the Church of Ireland. With these words Irish Bishops welcomed the Pastoral Letter of Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland presenting it to the faithful and to the media. The Letter in English and Italian, simultaneously released in Rome and Dublin past March 20, was read at all Sunday Masses across Ireland, which is under shock for the revelations that have been upsetting the Church over the past year. Groups representing abuse survivors have had mixed reactions to the Letter. The Irish Survivors of Child Abuse thanked the Pope for the “unprecedented apology”. Accordingly, the Letter “represents a highly emotional and long overdue apology from the Pope. It is a first step to heal the wounds of those who lost faith in the Church.” However, “One in Four” claimed that the letter “falls far short”.Dismayed and concerned. “I am deeply grateful to the Holy Father for his profound kindness and concern”, said Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of the Church of Ireland. It is evident from the Pastoral Letter that Pope Benedict is deeply dismayed by what he refers to as ‘sinful and criminal acts and the way the Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them.’ “Pope Benedict acknowledges that when many survivors were courageous enough to speak of what happened to them, no one would listen. He says it is understandable if they find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. But he also hopes that they will find reconciliation, deep inner healing and peace, by knowing how close Christ is to them in their pain, who was himself a victim of injustice and sin. In the name of the Church, Pope Benedict openly expresses the shame and remorse that we all feel about the abuse that has occurred. He expresses his readiness to meet victims of sexual abuse in the future, as he has done in the past”. “The Holy Father”, His Eminence continues, “calls on us to face the future with courage and determination. No one imagines that the present painful situation will be resolved quickly. Yet with perseverance, prayer and working together in unity, the Holy Father says we can be confident that the Church in Ireland will experience a season of rebirth and spiritual renewal”.Tragic failings. The Archbishop of Dublin, Msgr. Diarmuid Martin welcomes the Letter “not as a final word but as a further step in the process of renewal and healing in the Catholic Church in Ireland”. “I welcome the Pope’s expression of apology and his recognition of the suffering and betrayal experienced by survivors. The Pope recognizes the failures of Church authorities in how they dealt with sinful and criminal acts”, the archbishop wrote in a statement. In the homily delivered in Dublin’s cathedral past Sunday Msgr. Martin said the letter “deals with a painful chapter in the life of the Irish Church. It deals with a dramatically painful chapter in the lives of the many who were abused. The Pastoral Letter is not a commentary or guidelines about the management of sexual abuse. It is a much broader reflection of the Pope on the failings of the Church in Ireland and the future of the Church in Ireland. That means that it is a Letter for you and for me; it is a letter for each one of us. With Pope Benedict I appeal to each of you to read the Letter and reflect on it. The Church tragically failed many of its children: it failed through abuse; it failed through not preventing abuse; it failed through covering up abuse”. Accusations. Decades of abuse – not only sexual – on minors with church dignitaries turning a blind eye: it’s the scandal of pedophile priests within the Church of Ireland. The Ryan and Murphy Reports (named after the presidents of the two public inquiry commissions) – first released in 2009 – uncovered the extent of the scandal. The Ryan report brings evidence of 2500 children victims of violence and abuse in schools, seminaries and Catholic parishes from 1930 until the end of the 1970s, while the Murphy report focused on the diocese of Dublin in the period 1975 – 2004. The Murphy reports charges four ex-archbishops of Dublin, along with their auxiliaries and assistant priests, with having covered up cases of abuse. One of them, still living, Cardinal Desmond Connell, is retired. His post is currently held by Msgr. Diarmuid Martin. A number of ex auxiliaries, allegedly involved in the ‘code of silence’, in the meantime were elevated to the episcopacy: Msgr. Donald Murray, bishop of Limerick, Jim Moriarty, bishop of Kildare, and two current auxiliaries in the diocese of Dublin Msgr. Raymond Field and Msgr. Eamonn Walsh. All four presented their resignations ensuing strong public pressures. But until now only those of Msgr. Murray have been accepted.
Irish bishops welcome the Letter of Benedict XVI