Ireland Recap: Pope Met With Abuse Victims, Encouraged Families, Visited Knock

World Meeting of Families 2018 roundup

Pope Francis prays at the Knock Shrine in Ireland. There, he asked forgiveness for the sins of abuse in the Church and prayed for victims.
Pope Francis prays at the Knock Shrine in Ireland. There, he asked forgiveness for the sins of abuse in the Church and prayed for victims. (photo: Franciscus Instagram)

DUBLIN — Pope Francis met early Saturday evening with eight abuse victims in Ireland, during his visit to the country for the World Meeting of Families.  

A statement from the Vatican Press Office said the Pope met “for an hour and a half with eight Irish survivors of clerical, religious and institutional abuse.”

“Those present included Mrs. Marie Collins; Rev. Patrick McCafferty, P.P.; Rev. Joe McDonald; Councillor Damian O’Farrell; Paul Jude Redmond; Clodagh Malone; and Bernadette Fahy. One survivor, a victim of Father Tony Walsh, preferred to remain anonymous,” the statement said.

The Pope’s trip to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families follows ongoing revelations of sexual abuse and cover-up in numerous countries, including Ireland, Australia, Chile and the United States. As the Register reported, the latest revelation comes from former nuncio Archbishop Carlo Viganò, who claims Pope Francis withdrew sanctions against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

Upon arriving in the country, the Pope addressed the abuse crisis in his first public speech, decrying “the failings of many” in the Church.

“With regard to the most vulnerable, I cannot fail to acknowledge the grave scandal caused in Ireland by the abuse of young people by members of the Church charged with responsibility for their protection and education,” he said to Irish authorities Aug. 25.

“The failure of ecclesiastical authorities — bishops, religious superiors, priests and others — adequately to address these repugnant crimes has rightly given rise to outrage and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community.” He added: “I myself share those sentiments.”

Pope Francis affirmed a commitment “to eliminate this scourge in the Church; at any cost — moral and suffering.”

This past week, the Pope issued a letter to the entire Church, calling for prayer and fasting in penance for the evil of clerical sex abuse and for reform in the Church.

Also on Saturday, Pope Francis encouraged attendees at an evening festival for the World Meeting of Families to radiate joy into the world like lighthouses radiate light, giving an example for other families to follow. (Earlier in the day, he had addressed married couples.)

“God wants every family to be a beacon of the joy of his love in our world,” the Pope said Aug. 25 inside Dublin’s Croke Park stadium.

“What does this mean? It means for a family to be a lighthouse everyone can follow. It means that we, who have encountered God’s saving love, try, with or without words, to express it in little acts of kindness in our daily routine and in the most hidden moments of our day.”

“What is this called? This is called holiness,” he said. And he exclaimed that families are “the hope of the Church and of the world!”

“By your witness to the Gospel, you can help God’s dream to come true. You can help to draw all God’s children closer together, so that they can grow in unity and learn what it is for the entire world to live in peace as one great family,” he said.

Before his speech, the Pope watched several choir and dance performances and listened to six testimonies from families of different backgrounds and countries telling how they are living the “joy of the Gospel.”

The families were from India, Iraq, Burkina Faso, Ireland and Canada. One couple shared how they overcame heroin addictions and now have a family of 10 children.

The family from Iraq, who now lives in Australia, told Pope Francis about how their son and brother, Father Ragheed Ganni, was killed several years ago by terrorists after saying Mass.

The Indian family explained the importance they place on quality family time and how they choose to limit use of technology.

Responding to these testimonies in his address, the Pope praised a limiting of technology, which he said can be dangerous because it puts each person in his or her own “orbit” and away from concrete reality.

He also noted that social media can be used for good, such as to maintain connections with people they may have met at the World Meeting of Families this week.

Families should discern, however, if they might need to cut down on technology time in their house to spend more time as a family and in prayer, he said.

He praised the family from Iraq for responding to the evil of their son and brother’s murder with forgiveness. “Almost incredibly, they were able to find love in the peace of Christ, a love that makes all things new.”

On Sunday, during a quick visit to Knock Shrine in County Mayo, Pope Francis entrusted the Irish people to the care of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“Mary our Mother is also the Mother of the Church, and it is to her that we commend today the journey of God’s faithful people on this emerald isle,” he said Aug. 26.

“Amid the storms and winds that buffet our times, may they be a bulwark of faith and goodness, resisting, in the best traditions of this nation, all that would diminish our dignity as men and women created in God’s image,” he said during what was a rainy, foggy morning in the west Ireland village.

Giving to the shrine a golden rosary, the Pope recognized the Irish tradition of praying a family Rosary and encouraged the around 45,000 people present to continue doing so. “Who can tell how many hearts … have drawn comfort and strength” from meditation on the Rosary? he said.

After praying in silence inside the shrine, which was built on the site of an 1879 apparition, Pope Francis gave a brief speech, in which he also asked for the intercession of Our Lady for healing for abuse victims and for all Christians, that they may resolve to never again let those things happen.

“In my prayer before her statue, I presented to her in particular all the victims of abuse of whatever kind committed by members of the Church in Ireland,” he stated, and he noted the moving nature of the testimonies of young victims.

This “open wound” in the Church “challenges us to be firm and decisive in the pursuit of truth and justice.”

“I beg the Lord’s forgiveness for these sins and for the scandal and betrayal felt by so many others in God’s family,” he said.

After leading the recitation of the Angelus, Francis expressed his closeness to the people of Ireland who are imprisoned and thanked them for the letters they sent him.

He concluded: “May Our Lady of Mercy watch over you and protect you, and strengthen you in faith and hope!”

And at the papal Mass at Phoenix Park on Sunday, the Pope, in lieu of a traditional penitential act, asked forgiveness from those who had been abused by members of the clergy and nuns, particularly those in the country’s mother-and-baby homes.

Francis noted that he had met with eight abuse survivors of “power, conscience and sexual” offenses.

“Collecting up what they told me, I would like to place these crimes before the mercy of the Lord, and ask forgiveness for them,” he said.

“In a special way, we ask forgiveness for those abuses committed in different types of institutions run by religious men and women and other members of the Church, and we ask forgiveness for the cases of work exploitation to which many minors were submitted.”

The previous day, Pope Francis met with two representatives from the Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors for a 90-minute meeting at the papal nuncio’s residence.

At the meeting was Clodagh Aileen Malone, who was born in St. Patrick’s Mother and Baby Home in Dublin and adopted at 2 and half months old, and Paul Redmond, who was born in the Castlepollard Mother and Baby Home and adopted at just over 2 weeks old.

The meeting was described as “polite and cordial.”

The homes for unwed mothers operated in Ireland during the 20th century. While it is unclear just exactly how many women lived in these homes, the estimates range between 35,000 and 100,000 women.

Children born in the homes were sometimes placed for adoption without their mother’s consent, or even sold, according to reports. These women were allegedly told that it would be sinful if they were to ever seek out their children.

In 2015, the Irish government launched a commission into the mother-and-baby homes after reports that an unrecorded mass grave containing the bodies of several hundred infants was discovered outside of the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, County Galway, the year before. The commission is due to report its findings next year. The local archbishop welcomed the investigation, saying he was “greatly shocked” and “horrified and saddened” by reports of mistreatment.

Malone requested that Pope Francis state that mothers from the homes whose babies were taken from them had done “nothing wrong” and asked for the Pope to call for reunions between mothers and children who had born in the homes, not only in Ireland, but in similar homes in other countries.

During Mass on Sunday, Pope Francis clarified that it was not a sin for a woman whose child was taken away from her to search for her baby.

“We ask forgiveness for the children who were taken away from their mothers and for all the times when the single mothers that tried to look for their children that had been taken from them, or to the children who had been taken away from their mothers, were told that it was a mortal sin,” said Francis.

He closed the prayer by asking the Lord to “maintain and increase this state of shame and compulsion and give us the strength to work so that it never happen again and that justice may be done. Amen."

Both Redmond and Malone expressed positive sentiment following their meeting with the Pope. Redmond said that he feels “hopeful there will be more movement from the Church” on this issue and that he thought Pope Francis was “genuinely shocked” to learn about what happened in the homes.

The Pope “lifted his hands to his head in shock,” said Redmond.

Malone said that the meeting was “very powerful” and that Pope Francis was attentive and had a “genuine interest” in what had happened.

The next World Meeting of Families will be held in Rome in 2021.

This story was updated after posting.

The portion about the mother-and-baby homes and papal Mass,

contributed by Christine Rousselle/CNA, was added at 7:23pm Eastern.

Clockwise from top left: Donnelly College, Thomas Aquinas College East, Wyoming Catholic College, the University of Dallas and the Augustine Institute are among the faithfully Catholic colleges that are featured in our annual ‘Catholic Identity College Guide.’

The Case for Catholic Colleges

EDITORIAL: Faithfully Catholic colleges know a personal and mature relationship with Jesus is the only sure guidepost to a life of integrity and holiness today — a life that will continue to mature and bear fruit well after graduation.