Papal legate meets abuse victims at Lough DergThursday, June 14th, 2012
Far from the glare of media cameras, the Pope’s legate to the International Eucharistic Congress Cardinal Marc Ouellet, met survivors of clerical sexual abuse and apologised to them on behalf of the Pope and the Church.
Speaking at Ireland’s most arduous location for penitential pilgrimage known as St Patrick’s Purgatory on the island of Lough Derg, Cardinal Ouellet said the Pope had asked him to 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”.
The legate was accompanied by the Apostolic Nuncio Charles Brown and the Bishop of Clogher, Bishop Liam MacDaid. The group stayed overnight on the island during which time they fasted and participated in other penitential exercises with the pilgrims on the island. Yesterday Cardinal Ouellet left the penitential island which has been a place of pilgrimage for 1,500 years.
During his stay on the island, the Papal Legate met a representative group of survivors of child abuse in the Church, including representatives of both institutional and clerical abuse, men and women, from both the North and South of Ireland. For two hours the Cardinal heard at first hand the personal experiences of abuse of each of the survivors. Afterwards he said that he was deeply moved by his meeting with them and would report on the meeting to Pope Benedict XVI on his return to Rome.
Later the Papal Legate celebrated Mass in St Patrick’s Basilica on the island with approximately one hundred Irish and international pilgrims, some of whom had travelled to the island as part of their attendance at the Eucharistic Congress.
“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,” he told pilgrims. “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.”
“In the name of the Church, I apologize once again to the victims, some of which I have met here in Lough Derg.”
The Cardinal said the tragedy of the sexual abuse of minors perpetrated by Christians, especially when done so by members of the clergy, was a source of great shame and enormous scandal. “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 one’s to stumble’,” he said.
He reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s commitment to create a safe environments for children and to stay close to those who have been wounded. “We must remain close to them on their road of suffering, seeking in every possible way to heal and bind up the wounds following the example of the Good Samaritan.”
The Cardinal prayed to Our Lady and all the saints “to help us all to eradicate the evil of sexual abuse and set us free toward a deep and lasting spiritual renewal of the whole Church”.
Meanwhile in Rome yesterday Pope Benedict XVI invited the faithful of the world to remain “spiritually united to Christians in Ireland and the world, praying for the work of the congress, that the Eucharist may always be the pulsating heart of all Church life”.
by Sean Ryan
Picture of Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Papal Nuncio, Charles Brown at the Penitential Beds on Lough Derg courtesy John McElroy.