'The Church in Ireland Needs Our Prayers'

English cardinal reflects on apostolic visitation.

ROME (CNA/EWTN News) — English Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor describes Ireland as “a country I love very much,” but also as a nation that needs the prayers of Catholics around the globe as it struggles to recover from the abuse scandals in the local Church.

The former Archbishop of Westminster is part of the team that has just completed an audit of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

“I think it also needs our prayers, as well for a country which I love very much and for the Church in Ireland, which in the past has done so much for the Catholic Church all over the world with regards to missionaries and everything else,” he told Vatican Radio June 7.

The apostolic visitation of the Irish Catholic Church was announced by Pope Benedict back in March 2010, following a series of scandals publicized by government reports on physical and sexual abuse in the Irish Church. On June 7, the Vatican announced that the investigating team’s reports were now with Rome and that an official response is expected by early 2012.

“The Church in Ireland has been through a horrendous time, and it’s very hard to say there’ll be an immediate recovery; it’ll take time, and it’ll take good leadership; it’ll take the gift of the Spirit and sincere repentance,” said Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor who was born in England but whose parents were Irish.

“And you know the Church, they say, is always being reformed, always being renewed, and that’ll happen in Ireland as well. It’s happened in other parts of the Church in other times in history, and I think it will happen in Ireland as well, but it will take time.”

Cardinal Murphy O’Connor was part of a four-man team investigating diocesan life in Ireland. He was joined by Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston and two senior Canadian clerics, Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto and Archbishop Terence Prendergast, S.J., of Ottawa.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore led a review of Irish seminaries.

A parallel investigation into the functioning of religious houses is also taking place, and the Vatican said June 6 that more reports are expected from that group.

While hopeful of recovery, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor is also aware of the damage that has been done.

“One of the greatest sadness of it all is that the Catholic Church through the ages and especially over the last centuries has cared so well for children. It has educated children, cared for children.”

“So, I think the Church in Ireland needs our prayers, and those prayers will be for the gift of the Spirit for a real renewal of life and grace and those things which the Church gives: holiness and truth and love.”