In the first major address of his apostolic visit to Ireland, Pope Francis on August 25, 2018, acknowledged the harm caused by the abuse of young people by members of the Church, including bishops, priests, and all others.
“I am very conscious of the circumstances of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters – I think especially of those women who in the past have endured particularly difficult situations,” the Pope said. “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…Each child is, in fact, a precious gift of God, to be cherished, encouraged to develop his or her gifts, and guided to spiritual maturity and human flourishing.
“The failure of ecclesiastical authorities – bishops, religious superiors, priests and others – adequately to address these repellent crimes has rightly given rise to outrage and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community. I myself share those sentiments.”
The Holy Father’s remarks came in an address to Irish authorities and the diplomatic corps in Dublin. His visit is to commemorate the occasion of the 2018 World Meeting of Families.
The Pope stressed the importance of families and the need to support them. He pointed to the World Meeting as a way to reaffirm commitment to families and celebrate their rich contribution to life, calling the family a “God-given vocation in society”.
“The Meeting is not only an opportunity for families to reaffirm their commitment to loving fidelity, mutual assistance, and reverence for God’s gift of life in all its forms, but also to testify to the unique role played by the family in the education of its members and the development of a sound and flourishing social fabric,” Francis continued. “Families are the glue of society; their welfare cannot be taken for granted, but must be promoted and protected by every appropriate means.”
The Holy Father stressed the bonds of humanity that unite all people, noting the need to apply unity and solidarity to avoid conflict and to protect the weakest and vulnerable. He noted the “special resonance” this has in Ireland, where there existed “the long conflict that separated brothers and sisters of a single family”.
“Twenty years ago, the international community followed attentively the events in Northern Ireland that led to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.,” the Pope recalled. “The Irish government, in union with the political, religious and civil leaders of Northern Ireland and the British government, and with the support of other world leaders, created a dynamic context for the peaceful settlement of a conflict that had caused untold pain on both sides.
“Today as in the past, the men and women who live in this country strive to enrich the life of the nation with the wisdom born of their faith. Even in Ireland’s darkest hours, they found in that faith a source of the courage and commitment needed to forge a future of freedom and dignity, justice and solidarity. The Christian message has been an integral part of that experience and has shaped the language, thought and culture of people on this island.”