MAYNOOTH, Ireland, FEB. 22, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Several Irish bishops recounted to the faithful their impressions of last week’s meetings with Benedict XVI, called by the Pope to address the sexual abuse scandal shaking the nation.
The Holy Father called all of the acting Irish bishops to join him in Rome on Feb. 15 and 16, after having already met last December with Cardinal Sean Brady, president of the Irish episcopal conference, and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin.
Last Sunday, many of the bishops now back in Ireland spoke of the meetings during their homilies at Mass.
Bishop Martin Drennan of Galway gave a succinct summary: “What I took back from Rome after the two-day visit last week can be summed up in three phrases: face the past with honesty, the present with courage, the future with hope.”
Bishop Michael Smith of Meath characterized the encounter with the Pope as “the most open, honest and engaged meeting that I have attended.”
He said it indicates just how seriously the Pope is taking the sex abuse scandal.
“The Holy Father and nine senior cardinals and archbishops from the Curia were present for the meeting on Monday and up to lunchtime on Tuesday,” Bishop Smith explained. “By his and their presence, they wished to emphasize the seriousness with which they view this evil which affects the life of the Church in Ireland and society worldwide. The meeting began with each of the Irish bishops giving a five minute presentation [on] different aspects of the issue.
“In the afternoon, the cardinals and archbishops from the Curia responded, taking up a number of the points made in the morning presentations. Pope Benedict did likewise. When these were completed, discussion began on the draft of the letter that Pope Benedict will send to the Irish Church in the next few weeks. He listened attentively to comments and suggestions made by all present and will take these into account in finalizing his letter.”
Measure of importance
The Vatican response to the Irish scandal comes after two reports on the situation: The Murphy Commission Report, which details abuse cases in the Dublin Archdiocese from 1975 to 2004, was published last November. It followed another, the Ryan report, which was released last May and detailed child abuse in Catholic schools throughout the country.
Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor also saw the meetings as an indication of the Pontiff’s serious concern.
“The invitation issued to the diocesan bishops of Ireland by Pope Benedict and his presence at the meeting on Monday and Tuesday is a measure of the importance Benedict XVI gives to addressing the crime, sin and horror of sexual abuse of children, minors and vulnerable adults,” he said. “The Pope expressed his distress at what had happened here in Ireland.”
“This meeting was a point in the long process of dealing with the tragic shame and wound of abuse in the lives of victims, in the life of the Church and by extension in society,” Bishop Treanor added. “Of itself this meeting cannot heal this horrific wound. We should pray daily that such healing will occur in God’s time.”
Bishop James Moriarty of Kildare and Leighlin — who affirmed that the approval of his own request for resignation can be expected shortly after Easter — noted how the papal meeting was “a unique event.”
“The amount of time and attention given personally by Pope Benedict was very impressive,” he said. “Likewise the senior Curia members present were fully engaged and made their own contributions. The various sessions that took place over Monday and Tuesday were long and intense. It was certainly a worthwhile dialogue at the highest level.”
Bishop Moriarty, 73, was an auxiliary bishop of Dublin from 1991 to 2002.
He added that the Vatican meetings were just one more step in a situation that will continue to develop: “It is important to emphasize that this process is on‐going and more steps are to follow.”
Words from the Pope
Bishop Dennis Brennan of Ferns noted that he is looking forward to the Pontiff’s letter to the Church in Ireland, expected next month.
He said he sees the letter “as an important milestone on a road, from which there is no going back.”
“We are living through a time of great trial as a result of grave scandals and how they have been mishandled in our Church community,” the bishop affirmed. “[…] We are not in this darkness alone. Although the darkness can be very great, the Word of God is our mainstay: ‘Though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light to me’ (Micah 7:80). Our Christian hope urges us never to desist from seeking ways that will lead to peace and healing for all.”