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Pope Benedict’s Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland

March 20, 2010
Pope Benedict XVI has written a Pastoral Letter to all the Catholics of Ireland, that was made public today, March 20, 2010, in Rome. In this profound message, the Holy Father expresses his TRdismay at the sexual abuse of young people by Church representatives and the way this was addressed by local bishops and religious superiors. He asks that the Letter be read with attention and in its entirety. The Holy Father speaks of his closeness in prayer to the whole Irish Catholic community at this painful time and he proposes a path of healing, renewal and reparation.
Addressing the victims of abuse first of all, he acknowledges the grievous betrayal they have suffered and he tells them how sorry he is over what they have endured. He recognizes that, in many cases, no one would listen when they found the courage to speak of what happened. The Pope urges victims to seek in the Church the opportunity to encounter Jesus Christ and to find healing and reconciliation by rediscovering the infinite love that Christ has for each one of them.
In his words to priests and religious who have abused young people, the Pope calls upon them to answer before God and before properly constituted tribunals for the sinful and criminal actions they have committed. They have betrayed a sacred trust and brought shame and dishonour upon their confreres. Great harm has been done, not only to the victims, but also to the public perception of the priesthood and religious life in Ireland.
The Pope encourages parents to persevere in the demanding task of bringing up children to know that they are loved and cherished, and to develop a healthy self-esteem. Parents have the primary responsibility for educating new generations in the moral principles that are essential for a civilized society. The Pope invites children and young people to find in the Church an opportunity for a life-giving encounter with Christ, and not to be deterred by the failings of some priests and religious. He looks to the younger generation to contribute to the renewal of the Church.
Addressing himself to the Irish bishops, the Pope notes the grave errors of judgement and failure of leadership on the part of many, because they did not correctly apply canonical procedures when responding to allegations of abuse. While it was often hard to know how to address complex situations, the fact remains that serious mistakes were made, and they have lost credibility as a result. The Pope urges them to continue their determined efforts to remedy past mistakes and to prevent any recurrence by fully implementing canon law and cooperating with civil authorities in their areas of competence
The sin and stigma of sexual abuse is not unique to Ireland, nor is it unique to the Catholic Church. It is a sin found in all societies and nations. Let us pray together for the healing and reconciliation of the Irish Church, of the Church in Canada and the United States, and for the Church in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Italy and all those places where the Body of Christ has been deeply wounded by the sin of sexual abuse. Together let us bind the wounds and be agents of healing, reconciliation and peace.
Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO, Salt and Light Catholic Television Network
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