Ireland's purgatory: A place of penance and of grace

2012-06-13 Vatican Radio

A Mass was celebrated on this the 3rd day of the International Eucharistic Congress Dublin, Ireland. The theme explored Wednesday at the event was priestly ministry in the service of communion. Also, Wednesday it was announced that Pope Benedict’s personal representative had met with survivors of clerical sexual abuse during a pilgrimage to Ireland’s historic Lough Derg sanctuary. Emer McCarthy reports from Dublin, Listen
Long before Dante penned The Divine Comedy, Christians in Ireland were making penitential pilgrimages to Purgatory which –believe it or not – is on a small lake island, called Lough Derg, in county Donegal. But never, in it’s one thousand years of history, has anyone ever been sent there by a Pope.
On Tuesday, Pope Benedict XVI’s personal representative at the 50th International Eucharistic Congress, Cardinal Marc Ouellet – at the express request of Pope Benedict – made a pilgrimage to St Patrick’s purgatory. There he was met by a group of survivors of institutional and clerical abuse, both men and women, from different parts of the nation.
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. 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 the Holy Father on his return to Rome.

Tradition holds that the Lough Derg sanctuary - which consists of a basilica, pilgrim hostel and a series of bizzare concentric rock circles in the ground known as ‘stations’– was founded by the Apostle to Ireland, St. Patrick. The legend tells of how Patrick, afflicted by the people of Ireland who wanted substantial proof of all he preached, prayed to God who revealed to him that only by witnessing Purgatory would the people finally understand the joys of Heaven and torments of hell.
St Patrick’s Purgatory is a uniquely Irish pilgrimage. From June to August 15th, feast of the Assumption it entails three days and nights of fasting, prayer and recitation of the rosary, by barefoot pilgrims around rock beds in often inclement weather. It is a journey of faith and reparation.
Together with Archbishop Charles Brown, appointed Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland by Pope Benedict XVI January last, Cardinal Ouellet joined 100 Irish pilgrims in fasting and prayer overnight on the island.
And as he celebrated the Eucharist with them he said: “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”.
For as the legend goes it is only by witnessing purgatory that people will finally understand the joys of Heaven and torments of hell.