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6/8/2009 4:10 PM
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Pope 'visibly upset'
over Irish child abuse

by PATSY McGARRY, Religious Affairs Correspondent

June 8, 2009

Pope Benedict was "visibly upset" when he heard details contained in the Ryan report on abuse in State institutions run by religious orders, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said today.

Cardinals Martin (left) and Brady at the news conference.

Archbishop Martin and Catholic Primate Seán Brady were speaking after meeting bishops in Maynooth today in the wake of a meeting with the Pope on Friday where they discussed the Ryan report with the Pontiff.

The two met Pope Benedict on Friday in the Vatican. Earlier last week, they met six members of the Curia, including Secretary of State Cardinal Bertoni.

In a statement to journalists after today's meeting, Cardinal Brady said the Pope had "listened very carefully, very attentively, very sympatheticly to what we had to say and he said in reply that this was a time for deep examination of life here in Ireland in the Church.

He said the Pope urged them to establish the truth of what has happened, ensure that justice is done for all, put in place the measures that will prevent these abuses happening again, with a view to healing for survivors.

Archbishop Martin said: "The Pope wrote his first encyclical about the love of God. He was very visibly upset, I would say, to hear of some of the things that are told in the Ryan report, how the children had suffered from the very opposite of an expression of the love of God."

He said Cardinal Brady had met with the Conference of the Religious of Ireland (Cori) last night to give them the first briefing on the Vatican meeting. “We want to avoid any idea that we are in conflict with Cori and the many congregations that belong to it, or indeed with many religious who have done exemplary service in the country.

“The message again that we bring back with us is that we have to listen to the victims, we have to listen to the survivors, they’re the ones who have gone through this.

"Let’s listen and learn from what’s in the report and do a little bit of soul searching about what way the Church in Ireland will look in years to come." Archbishop Martin added that the dialogue with the Vatican would continue and “something will come from that.”

Asked on the way into the meeting this morning about a letter sent by the Christian Brothers, five days before publication of the Ryan report, refuting there had been any abuse in their institutions Archbishop Martin said: “There has been huge denial about abuse”.

The Irish Survivors of Child Abuse (Soca) group yesterday welcomed the meeting between the two Irish church leaders and the Pope, and expressed its willingness to help the Vatican in any inquiry carried out into the misconduct of religious orders in Ireland or elsewhere.

The Dáil was due to begin a debate on the report tomorrow, expected to last two days. However, following Fine Gael’s post-election decision to call for a motion of no confidence in the Government, the abuse debate is likely to be delayed until Thursday.

Meanwhile, Catholic theologian Fr Vincent Twomey [who studied under Prof. Joseph Ratzinger and has written a book about the Pope's theology] has described as “monsters” and the “dregs of society” the religious who abused children in church-run institutions.

Speaking yesterday on BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence programme, Fr Twomey praised many other members of religious orders for caring for a country that had been abandoned by government for over 200 years.

The former professor of moral theology at the National University of Ireland described his reaction to the Ryan report as one of horror, and said it left him unable to sleep for some nights.

Asking how it was possible that religious supposedly devoted to Christ and the care of children turned out to be such “monsters”, he suggested part of the problem came from the church’s failure to develop a self-critical, thinking Christianity.

Irish Catholicism was conformist, parochial and narrow-minded, he said, and it wasn’t open to the big questions. The religious were very devotional and emotional, but not generally intellectual. He said “a conformist, externally orientated, ritualistic practice grew up, which didn’t touch the heart”.

A new umbrella group, Survivors of Institutional Abuse Ireland, is to march from Parnell Square to the Dáil at noon on Wednesday. Described as an act of solidarity with former residents of the institutions, the march will see participants carrying just one banner with the words: “Cherishing the children of the nation equally”.

The march will proceed in silence. Each person taking part has been requested to wear a while ribbon and bring along a child’s shoe. The shoes will be placed at Leinster House, and the white ribbons will be tied to the railings.

Four wreaths, two white and two black, will be laid at Leinster House by leaders of groups of former residents, in memory of all who were resident in the institutions, living and dead. A copy of a petition will be handed at Leinster House to Cori secretary general, Sister Marianne O’Connor, and representatives of each of the 18 religious congregations which were party to the 2002 redress agreement with the State.

Unions and employers are being asked to allow workers in Dublin an early lunch on Wednesday so they can take part in the march.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/9/2009 4:30 PM]
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