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Archbishop of Dublin urges 'challenge' of Church by Pope Francis over abuse scandals

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, president of World Meeting Of Families 2018, at a press conference in June at Maynooth University in Co Kildare outlining plans for Pope Francis' visit to Ireland this summer. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Paul Ainsworth

THE Catholic archbishop of Dublin has urged Pope Francis to "challenge" the Catholic Church in Ireland over abuse scandals.

Speaking during a homily in Dublin’s St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral yesterday, archbishop Diarmuid Martin said an apology from the Pope for the hurt caused by paedophile priests was “not enough” and called for more to be done to protect victims.

Pope Francis is due to meet survivors of Irish clerical abuse when he arrives in Dublin on Saturday in the first papal visit to Ireland for almost 40 years.

In his hard-hitting speech, Archbishop Martin called for the removal of structures that facilitated abuse in Ireland, and expressed frustration that moves to tackle the issue had not yet been made.

"When you add up all the categories of victims, you can see that the number was immense," he told worshippers.

"We still only know the identity of some. It is not something that belongs to the past but a hurt that survivors and those close to them carry in their hearts every day of their lives."

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Speaking of the feelings of victims, the archbishop continued: "The anger is not just about abuse but also about a church that was authoritarian, harsh, autocratic and self-protecting. We experienced a Church that felt that it knew all the answers."

He added: "The recent history of the church in Ireland had its moments of real darkness.

"We need a church of light, a light that exposes darkness for what it is, and a light that is such that the mechanisms of cover-up and self justification cannot extinguish or tone down.

"My hope is that Pope Francis will challenge the Church in Ireland to be different, to be more authentically the Church of Jesus Christ in a culture that is different."

He said the scandals had produced deep-seated resentment amongst believers.

It is not just anger over the horror of abuse, but an anger at the role of Church leadership in compounding the suffering of so many in institutions for children, for unmarried mothers and for vulnerable women.

"These were people who found themselves placed in the care (of) the church to be loved and respected but who so often encountered extraordinary harshness.

"What is worse, they were in the main poor and vulnerable people, those who should above all have been the privileged recipients of what the love and care of Jesus Christ mean.

"I keep asking myself what it was in Irish Catholicism that led to such a level of harshness?"

The homily came as the Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin warned that the meeting of abuse victims by Pope Francis would not "fix things".

In an interview with the Sunday Business Post, Archbishop Eamon Martin said: "We ourselves are responsible for the lack of trust in the Church. I don’t think that a 36-hour visit by Pope Francis is going to repair that, nor should it."

He continued: "I meet survivors of abuse. They carry the wound throughout their lives. I think the Church in Ireland and the Church universal will carry this shame and this wound for many more decades to come, and rightly so."

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