At his first public audience since his visit to Ireland, Pope Francis spoke again about “the sufferings” caused in that country “by various forms of abuse” by priests and religious and by fact that “the church authorities in the past” had not dealt with these crimes in an adequate manner, alluding to their cover-up by bishops and religious superiors.
He made no reference, however, to the 11-page letter by the formal papal nuncio to the United States that was released during his visit there, which accused him and, less explicitly, the two previous popes and their administrations of covering up the abuse of seminarians by the former cardinal archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick, and called for Francis’ resignation. The Italian news agency ANSA reported last evening that sources close to the pope said that “he has no intention of resigning.” A source close to Pope Francis told America that he is “very tranquil.”
Sources close to the pope said that “he has no intention of resigning.”
Addressing thousands of pilgrims from many countries in St. Peter’s Square this morning, Aug. 29, Pope Francis spoke of “the great joy” he experienced during his visit to Ireland and his meeting with people from 116 countries for the World Meeting of Families in Dublin. He said he went there “to confirm Christian families in their vocation and mission” and in their calling “to radiate the love of Christ” in today’s world. He spoke at length about families and announced that the next World Meeting of Families will take place in Rome in 2021.
During his two-day visit, he said, “I had to take responsibility for the pain and bitterness for the sufferings caused in that country by various forms of abuse, also by members of the church, and for the fact that the ecclesiastical authorities in the past had not always known how to deal in an adequate manner with these crimes.”
He recalled his meeting last Saturday evening with eight survivors of different forms of abuse—including abuse suffered in the mother and baby homes and in the Magdalene laundries—and revealed that “it left a deep mark on me.”
“I asked the Lord pardon for these sins and for the scandal and sense of betrayal caused,” the pope said.
“At various times, I asked the Lord pardon for these sins and for the scandal and sense of betrayal caused,” the pope said.
Last Sunday, he also prayed for forgiveness for these crimes and sins. He did so not only at the Marian shrine of Knock but also at the beginning of the Mass attended by 300,000 people in a windy and rain-drenched Phoenix Park. He began what the Vatican described as “a penitential act” by telling them that the previous evening he had met with “eight persons who are survivors of the abuse of power, the abuse of conscience and sexual abuse.”
“Reflecting on what they told me,” he said, “I wish to implore the Lord’s mercy for these crimes and to ask forgiveness for them.”
Francis then read the following prayer:
We ask forgiveness for the cases of abuse in Ireland, the abuse of power, the abuse of conscience and sexual abuse on the part of representatives of the church. In a special way, we ask forgiveness for all those abuses that took place in different kinds of institutions directed by men and women religious and other members of the church. We also ask forgiveness for cases in which many minors were exploited for their labor.
We ask forgiveness for all those times when, as a church, we did not offer to the survivors of any type of abuse compassion and the pursuit of justice and truth by concrete actions. We ask forgiveness.
We ask forgiveness for some members of the hierarchy who took no responsibility for these painful situations and kept silent. We ask forgiveness.
We ask forgiveness those children who were taken away from their mothers and for all those times when so many single mothers who tried to find their children that had been taken away, or those children who tried to find their mothers, were told that this was a mortal sin. It is not a mortal sin; it is the fourth commandment! We ask forgiveness.
May the Lord preserve and increase this sense of shame and repentance and grant us the strength to ensure that it never happens again, and that justice is done. Amen.
At the public audience today, he said that “the Irish bishops have undertaken a serious journey of purification and reconciliation with those that suffered abuse and have established with the national authorities a series of severe norms to guarantee the security of the young.” He revealed that in his private meeting with the more than 50 Irish bishops he “encouraged them in their efforts to make up for the failures of the past with honesty and courage, trusting in the promises of the Lord and counting on the deep faith of the Irish people, to inaugurate a stage of renewal of the church in Ireland.”
Francis told the pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square today, as he had told journalists on the flight back to Rome, “There is the faith in Ireland, there is a people of faith, a faith with deep roots.” At the same time, he remarked, “there are few vocations to the priesthood.”
“But why is this faith not able [to produce vocations]?” he asked. He provided an answer: It is “because of these problems, these scandals, many things. He told the pilgrims, “We must pray to the Lord to send holy priests to Ireland, to send new vocations.” He invited them to join him in praying for this intention by reciting a Hail Mary to Our Lady of Knock. When they had said the prayer, Francis concluded, saying, “Lord Jesus, send us holy priests!”