Pope Francis must speak out on church abuse, says McAleese

Organisers of visit ‘found time to go to Knock’ and should find time too to meet survivors

Those who had suffered “really do need to be included in some way”, Mary McAleese said. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Those who had suffered “really do need to be included in some way”, Mary McAleese said. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

 

Pope Francis should not only meet survivors of clerical child sexual abuse on his visit to Ireland but “he also has to address what he plans to do for the future”, former president Mary McAleese has said.

The pope will meet Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle on Saturday, August 25th. Mrs McAleese said Pope Francis should use the occasion to speak about the abuse issue, noting “the citizens of this State have a huge interest in the matter”.

He should also set out “his plan for addressing that within the church because at the end of the day he is the man responsible for the systemic changes that are needed to create a culture in which this no longer occurs”.

Those who had suffered “really do need to be included in some way”, Ms McAleese added. When the visit was announced she wrote to the papal nuncio “and raised this issue with him and also the issue of going to Northern Ireland”. She was told the Pope would be on a very tight schedule and “ was only coming to Dublin.”

Then “they found time to go to Knock, which is a whole morning even though he’s only going to be there for eight minutes or so. A time was found for that and I think time has to be found somewhere because these are people who have been overlooked, neglected”.

Forcefully

She told The Irish Times: “I think, in fairness, we have an Archbishop in Dublin who has been making this case very, very forcefully and I agree with him absolutely. Francis has to meet them [survivors] but he also has to address what he plans to do for the future. What is his plan to create a situation where a future generation does not have to bear this burden of hurt.”

Meanwhile, the Government has invited all Northern Ireland party leaders, including Arlene Foster of the DUP, to Pope Francis’s mass in the Phoenix Park. However, it is not yet clear if Mrs Foster, who was at the Ulster Senior Football Championship Final earlier this summer, will attend. It is understood the invitations were only sent late last week.

Speaking at a briefing for political correspondents in recent days, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that he will tell the pope that Irish people regard families led by heterosexual and homosexual couples as equal. Mr Varadkar, while saying he is unsure how long his talks with the pope will be, said he would also raise the concerns “Irish people have in relation to the legacy of the past”.

“If the opportunity arises, I will certainly want to express to him the real concerns Irish people have in relation to the legacy of the past, in relation to issues such as the church’s involvement in Magdalene laundries, mother-and-baby homes, and sexual and physical abuse.”