2012-06-13 Vatican RadioDuring his pilgrimage to Lough Derg, Co Donegal, in Ireland on Tuesdsay and Wednesday, the Papal Legate to the 50th International Eucharistic Congress, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, met with a representative group of survivors of child abuse in the Church. This included representatives of institutional and clerical abuse, men and women, from different parts of the island of Ireland, North and South. The meeting lasted two hours during which each survivor spoke of his or her own personal experience of abuse and its impact on their lives.
After the meeting 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.
During his homily, Cardinal Ouellet said:
“Pope Benedict XVI asked me, as his Legate to the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, that I would 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.
“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. 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.
“I repeat here what the Holy Father told to the victims in His Letter to the Catholics of Ireland: ‘It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or to be reconciled with the Church. In her name I openly express the shame and remorse that we feel. At the same time, I ask you not lose hope. It is in the communion of the Church that we encounter the person of Jesus Christ, who was himself a victim of injustice and sin.’
“The tragedy of the sexual abuse of minors perpetrated by Christians, especially when done so by members of the clergy, is 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’ (Lk. 17:2).
“From the context of this International Eucharistic Congress, I reaffirm the commitment of the Catholic Church to create a safe environment for children and we pray that a new culture of respect, integrity and Christ like love would prevail in our midst and permeate the whole society.”
Speaking afterward, the Papal Legate said he was deeply moved by his meeting with the survivors of abuse and that he would be reporting on the meeting to Pope Benedict XVI on his return to Rome.
The Papal Legate and his delegation, including the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, along with the Bishop of Clogher, Bishop Liam MacDaid, stayed overnight on the island during which time they fasted and participated in other penitential exercises with the pilgrims on the island.
The full text of Cardinal Ouellet’s homily will published later this afternoon by the Catholic Communications Office, Maynooth.