The Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin has been meeting clerical abuse survivors throughout Ireland in advance of a Church leaders' child protection gathering in Rome later this month.
It has been called by Pope Francis to discuss how the issue can be best addressed throughout the Church internationally and takes place at the Vatican from February 21st to 24th.
The attendance will include Presidents of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences and religious superiors from across the world. As President of the Irish Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Eamon Martin will be Ireland’s representative at the gathering.
Archbishop Martin said over recent weeks he had been “privileged to meet with victims and survivors of abuse and members of their families in the four provinces of Ireland”.
He had been “humbled by their courage and overwhelmed by their generosity of spirit”.
“It is my intention to relay the lived experience and insights of Irish survivors, both personally to Pope Francis, and more widely to the safeguarding meeting in Rome later this month.”
Many of the survivors had spoken to him “about the importance of prayer for survivors, and for the need for the Church to be open to justice, to atone and never forget them”, he said.
Meanwhile the annual Day of Prayer for Survivors and Victims of Sexual Abuse will take place in Ireland on Friday February 15th , a week before the Pope Francis’ gathering in Rome.
During a recent retreat in Knock, Ireland’s Catholic bishops blessed and dedicated candles of atonement for use in their Cathedrals and parishes throughout the island on February 15th and afterwards during Masses and other liturgies.
Archbishop Eamon Martin said he welcomed “the candles of atonement initiative, and the accompanying prayer which was written by a survivor of abuse”.
“In lighting these candles we will bring to mind our brothers and sisters, and their families, who have been left with a lifelong suffering as a result of abuse, whose trust was so deeply betrayed and whose faith has been so cruelly tested within the sanctity of the Church by perpetrators of abuse,” he said.
He encouraged “dioceses and parishes to undertake this new prayer initiative and to light the ‘Candle of Atonement’ in Cathedrals and churches across Ireland”.
“People visiting the church for quiet prayer might light the ‘Candle of Atonement’, pray the prayer, and bring to mind someone they know who has been directly impacted or affected by abuse. It would mean a lot if the Candle was lit at all Masses on the 15th to 17th February, and also on the weekend of 23rd/24th of February while the safeguarding meeting is taking place with Pope Francis in Rome.”
He added that the prayer for dedication and lighting of the 'Candle of Atonement' was "based on the very moving Penitential Rite composed and prayed by Pope Francis at the final Mass of the World Meeting of Families 2018 in Phoenix Park last August when he implored the Lord's mercy for the crimes of abuse and asked for forgiveness".