Priestly sins have shaken faith of Irish Catholics, says pope


THE POPE has described as “a mystery” the fact “that people who regularly received the Lord’s body and confessed their sins in the sacrament of Penance” could abuse children.

He said that “evidently, their Christianity was no longer nourished by joyful encounter with Jesus Christ: it had become merely a matter of habit”.

In a message to the 50th International Eucharistic Congress, relayed in Croke Park after the closing Mass yesterday, he noted how “Ireland has been shaped by the Mass at the deepest level for centuries, and by its power and grace generations of monks, martyrs and missionaries have heroically lived the faith at home and spread the good news of God’s love and forgiveness well beyond your shores”.

Addressing Irish Catholics he said: “You are the heirs to a church that has been a mighty force for good in the world, and which has given a profound and enduring love of Christ and his blessed mother to many, many others.”

But, he continued: “Thankfulness and joy at such a great history of faith and love have recently been shaken in an appalling way by the revelation of sins committed by priests and consecrated persons against people entrusted to their care.”

He asked: “How are we to explain the fact that people who regularly received the Lord’s body and confessed their sins in the sacrament of Penance have offended in this way? It remains a mystery.”

Earlier in his message he referred to the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council next October and how that council had “promoted the full and active participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic sacrifice”.

In an apparent reference to controversy following the introduction of the new missal in English-speaking countries last year, he said that, where liturgical renewal since the council was concerned, a great deal had been achieved, “but it is equally clear that there have been misunderstandings and irregularities”.

Renewal “of external forms, desired by the council fathers, was intended to make it easier to enter into the inner depth of the mystery . . . to lead people to a personal encounter with the Lord, present in the Eucharist . . .”

Yet, and “not infrequently”, he said “the revision of liturgical forms has remained at an external level, and active participation has been confused with external activity”.

Much remained to be done on the path of liturgical renewal, he said. “In a changed world, increasingly fixated on material things, we must learn to recognise anew the mysterious presence of the risen Lord, which alone can give breadth and depth to our life.”

In his closing remarks yesterday congress president and Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said that over the past eight days “the Eucharist has awakened in our hearts something which went way beyond our plans and expectations”.

It had been “the nourishment of the extraordinary sense of our communion with one another which those of us who have been in the RDS and are here today have experienced. We have experienced the communion of the church”.

He said: “We must go away from here with a renewed passion for the Eucharist. We must go away with a renewed love of the church. We must go away from here wanting to tell others not just about the congress, but about Jesus Christ himself who, in giving himself in sacrifice, revealed to us that God is love.”

He continued: “In our prayers in these days we have kept in our prayers and in our hearts all those who suffered criminal abuse within the community of Christ’s church and all those who feel in any way alienated from the church and who have not experienced in our church the love of Jesus Christ.”

In his homily at the Mass the papal legate Cardinal Mark Ouellett thanked “wholeheartedly Archbishop Martin, Cardinal Brady and all the collaborators of this event for the gift of their warm hospitality and for the example of their strong dedication to Christian renewal in this country”.

He said “the Irish [Eucharistic] bell, which resounds from Lough Derg, from Knock and Dublin, must resound in the whole world. Let’s ring the bell further through our personal testimony of renewed faith in the Holy Eucharist”.