Child protection the key, says bishop


YOUTH MINISTRY:CHILD PROTECTION guidelines introduced by the Catholic Church should ensure there is no safer place in Ireland for young people to be involved than in modern church work, the Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor has said.

Launching the church’s framework document on youth ministry in Ireland Called Together, Making the Difference, Bishop Donal McKeown said the document was the beginning of a new conversation about how to be an evangelising and youth-friendly church in modern Ireland.

“This book is not the last word, but it is saying that, whatever terrible things have happened in the past, we will not be locking ourselves in upper rooms but continue to take seriously our call to live the Gospel and to proclaim it,” he said.

Commenting on the Ryan report, the Bishop said it had caused huge shockwaves around the country and abroad.

“We have all heard about the appalling treatment of so many vulnerable young people in church-run homes and about the apparent deafness of Irish society to the reality of what was going on,” he said.

“We have heard about the effect of those experiences on the ability of many people to cope with adult life. We have heard the anger of victims and of the country at large.”

He said there were more painful revelations about past events to come in the Dublin report and there were some events that would never come out into the public arena. “What could have gone so wrong in the mindset of a country and church that still continued to produce so many good and gracious things?” he asked.

He said the youth ministry document, facilitated by the Provincial of the Redemptorists, Fr Michael Kelleher, aimed to sketch out a framework that would set a context, priorities and methodology for youth ministry in Ireland.

It was written within the parameters of the “vitally important child-protection guidelines that should ensure that there is no safer place in Ireland for young people than modern church work”, he said.

The document makes suggestions on how the Catholic Church can guide young people through the complexities of life, encourage them to become more spiritually aware and help them make positive decisions in their lives.

The Episcopal Conference would set up an implementation group to ensure the document “did not just lie on the shelf”, but was discussed around the country, Bishop McKeown said.