Pope Francis asked for “the forgiveness of the Lord” for the sexual assaults committed in Ireland by Catholic priests, on the second day of his visit to the country. “I implore the Lord’s forgiveness for these sins, for the scandal and betrayal felt by so many in the family of God,” said the Pope during a visit to the Knock Sanctuary on Sunday, the site of a Marian shrine about 180 km from Dublin.
Since 2002, more than 14,500 people have reported being victims of sexual abuse by priests in Ireland. The hierarchy of the Irish Church is accused of covering up these allegations against hundreds of priests. Several investigations have also revealed illegal adoptions of children born to unmarried women carried out by the Irish state with the complicity of the Catholic Church.
The magnitude of these scandals partly explains the loss of influence of the Church in recent years in Ireland, which has historically been one of the most Catholic countries in Europe.
“None of us can fail to be moved by the stories of young people who suffered abuse, were robbed of their innocence and left scarred by painful memories. This open wound challenges us to be firm and decisive in the pursuit of truth and justice. I beg the Lord’s forgiveness for these sins and for the scandal and betrayal felt by so many others in God’s family,” the pope said.
On Saturday, in Dublin, the Pontiff spoke of his “shame” and “suffering” in the face of “the failure of the ecclesiastical authorities” to deal adequately with the “vile crimes” of the clergy in Ireland.
Abuse survivor and campaigner Colm O’ Gorman called the Pope’s failure to mention the church’s role in covering up abuse claims while in Ireland an “inexcusable avoidance of the truth.”
“What we want to see I think is a frank acknowledgement of the truth, of his institution and his state’s cover-up of the crimes of rape and abuse perpetrated against hundreds of thousands of people in this country and to own that and take responsibility for that,” O’ Gorman said.