Papal legate 'deeply moved' by abuse survivors

Thu, Jun 14, 2012, 01:00

PAPAL LEGATE Cardinal Marc Ouellet met survivors of child abuse during his pilgrimage to Lough Derg, Co Donegal, on Tuesday and apologised to them on behalf of the church.

The cardinal, who is representing Pope Benedict XVI at the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, met male and female survivors from the Republic and Northern Ireland. The meeting lasted two hours, during which survivors spoke of their experience of abuse and its impact on their lives.

He said he was “deeply moved” and would be reporting on the meeting to the pope. Cardinal Ouellet celebrated Mass in St Patrick’s Basilica on the island with about 100 Irish and international pilgrims later on Tuesday. The Catholic Communications Office released the homily yesterday but said it could not reveal who the cardinal had met as it wished to protect their privacy. The cardinal told the congregation that “Pope Benedict XVI asked me, as his legate to the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, that I would come to Lough Derg and ask God’s forgiveness for the times clerics have sexually abused children not only in Ireland but anywhere in the church”.

He continued: “I come here with the specific intention of seeking forgiveness from God and from the victims, for the grave sin of sexual abuse of children by clerics. We have learned over the last decades how much harm and despair such abuse caused to thousands of victims.

“We learned too that the response of some church authorities to these crimes was often inadequate and inefficient in stopping the crimes, in spite of clear indications in the code of canon law.” He told the congregation: “In the name of the church, I apologise once again to the victims, some of whom I have met here in Lough Derg.” He also quoted from the pope’s letter to Catholics in Ireland, expressing shame and remorse. “The tragedy of the sexual abuse of minors perpetrated by Christians, especially when done so by members of the clergy, is a source of great shame and enormous scandal,” the cardinal said.

“It is a sin against which Jesus himself lashed out: ‘It would be better for him if a millstone was put around his neck and he is thrown in to the sea than for him to cause one of the little ones to stumble’,” he said, quoting from the Bible. “From the context of this international Eucharistic Congress, I reaffirm the commitment of the Catholic Church to create a safe environment for children and we pray that a new culture of respect, integrity and Christ-like love would prevail in our midst and permeate the whole society.”

After the homily, prayers of intercession were offered for the church, for survivors of abuse and for “the inadequate response often given by church leaders”. The papal legate and his delegation, including apostolic nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown and Bishop Liam MacDaid of Clogher, stayed overnight on the island. They fasted and participated in other penitential exercises with pilgrims.

At the end of his catechesis yesterday in the Vatican, the pope said the Eucharistic Congress “is an important opportunity to reaffirm the central place of the Eucharist in the life of the church”.