Pope's visit

Irish minister told Pope Francis Church must 'make reparation' for Tuam baby scandal

Pope Francis speaking at Dublin Castle on Saturday. Picture by Niall Carson, Press Association
Digital Staff

The Republic's children's minister Katherine Zappone told Pope Francis the Church must address the "shameful" Tuam Mother and Baby home scandal.

Ms Zappone spoke to the Pope briefly on Saturday morning outside Áras an Uachtaran during the pontiff's two-day visit to the Republic over the weekend.

The minister told presenter Miriam O'Callaghan on RTÉ Radio 1 this morning that she had practiced what she would say to the Pope in Italian.

She said she told Pope Francis: "I am responsible for the Tuam Mother and Baby home, children's remains were found in sewage system there".

"I hope the Church will make reparation for its part in this shameful chapter," she said.

"It is important and I will write to you in detail."


Ms Zappone said she had decided she would speak to the Pope in Italian because she only had 30 seconds with him and wanted to convey a very clear message.

She said he recognised Tuam the moment she mentioned the Mother and Baby Home and that he replied in English "thank you for saying that".

"I practiced it quite a bit the day before," he said.

"He leaned towards me and looked directly into my eyes and said, thank you for saying that.

"I'm always really nervous when I know I'm about to do something really significant."

Research by historian Catherine Corless revealed that more than 700 babies had been buried in a septic tank at the Co Galway home between 1925 and 1961.

The Pope later mentioned Ms Zappone during his speech at Dublin Castle on Saturday and said her words "continue to echo" in his ears.

Katherine Zappone, the Republic's minister for children and youth affairs

Ms Zappone, who has just begun to learn Italian, said she had passed on a two-page letter to the Pope's officials about the history of Tuam. In the letter, she asked that the Church contribute to the cost of whatever reparations are decided by the Irish government.

Speaking on his flight to Rome from Dublin on Sunday, Pope Francis said through a translator that Ms Zappone "was brief, she said, 'Holy Father we have found common graves, children buried. And we are investigating. The church is involved in this.'

"But she said it in a very polite way, with much respect.

"I thanked her for this. It touched my heart, that is why I wanted to repeat it during my speech.

"It touched my heart that is why I wanted to repeat in the speech.

"Then she said she would send a memo. She was very very balanced.

"But she let me know that the church had something to look into. An example of constructive collaboration. A lament, a lament, that at one time the church had (facilitated this problem).

"That person had dignity that touched my heart. And now I have the memo that I will study at home."

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Pope's visit

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