Pope Begins Meetings on Ireland Abuse Scandals

Cardinal Bertone Stresses Need for Conversion

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 15, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Today in the Vatican, Benedict XVI began a two-day summit with all of the serving diocesan bishops of Ireland regarding recent revelations about the sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

The Pope’s call for all of the bishops to join him in Rome for discussions, which was announced Jan. 20, was an “unprecedented move,” Vatican Radio reported.

The Pontiff had already met on Dec. 11 with Cardinal Sean Brady, archbishop of Armagh and president of the Irish episcopal conference, and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin. They discussed the Murphy Commission Report, which details abuse cases in the Dublin Archdiocese from 1975 to 2004.

That report was published last November and it followed another, the Ryan report, which was released last May and detailed widespread child abuse in Catholic schools throughout the country.

Vatican Radio noted that these reports “have rocked the Catholic Church on the island nation to its very core,” particularly the second document with its emphasis on the failure of the prelates to adequately respond to abuse allegations.

Restoring confidence

In a press conference Sunday, Bishop Joseph Duffy of Clogher stated that the summit aimed to strategize about how to help “give assurance to families and restore confidence and serenity with the clergy and the faithful” in Ireland.

He noted that each prelate would have to give an account to Benedict XVI for his actions or omissions in the line of duty.

“Questions of resignation” are not on the agenda, Bishop Duffy stated, “because that is not our prerogative.”

Rather, he added, the prelates will discuss how best to deal with the “enormous injustice and cruelty” of the abuses reported.

This morning, the 24 Irish bishops began the summit with Mass, presided over by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope’s secretary of state, in the Vatican crypt near the tomb of St. Peter.

The prelates prayed for the abuse victims, the Church and the entire people of Ireland, and the success of the summit, the bishops’ conference reported.

The cardinal the Catholic community can be shaken by the “storms” that arouse fear due to the “sins of its members.”

“However,” he added, “from this can come the grace of conversion and greater faith,” L’Osservatore Romano reported.

The cardinal underlined the purpose of the summit, that the whole of Ireland’s episcopate had come together “to hear the Successor of Peter and present to him their initiatives in regard to the very difficult crisis the country’s Church is undergoing.”

He expressed the hope for “humility and trust” on the part of all: bishops, priests and people of God. “Trial on one hand humiliates,” he said, but “on the other hand produces patience and a deepening of faith.”

He affirmed that these trials can come from both outside or inside the Church. “Both are painful,” the cardinal acknowledged, “but those that come from within are naturally hard and humiliating.”

Abhorrent acts

The trials currently facing the Catholic community in Ireland are “a serious test,” Cardinal Bertone said, which “sees some churchmen involved in particularly abhorrent acts.”

“This kind of test strips us of any false security and pushes us to entrust ourselves to God alone,” he continued, because only if we are “true and sincerely humble” can “the grace of God act and we achieve a true rebirth.”

The Paraclete “comes to defend us from the ‘accuser,’ the Evil One, that he has defeated,” the cardinal said.

However, he added, since “the struggle against evil is not finished” and “continues until the end of times,” the Father has sent us the Holy Spirit, to “fill the most profound abyss.”

The condition of this, Cardinal Bertone noted, is that “the sinner recognize his own fault in full truth: caritas in veritate.”

He warned the prelates against the temptation that “tends to make one lose trust in God, driving one to discouragement and despair.”

The cardinal urged the bishops to accept God’s will with a “good and faithful heart in order to receive the full force of renewal.”

Cardinal Brady echoed these hopes, asking the faithful to pray for “healing, reconciliation and renewal,” a bishops’ conference communiqué affirmed.

The cardinal also prayed for the Holy Spirit’s guidance on the Church in his country at this time.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, said that the Pontiff plans to discuss with the bishops a pastoral letter regarding the abuse scandals, AP reported.

After the December meeting, a Vatican communiqué announced the Holy Father’s intention of writing a pastoral letter to the Irish, “in which he will clearly indicate the initiatives that are to be taken in response to the situation.”

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