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Pope Francis closes Ireland visit with appeals to divided Catholics

Pope Francis leads Mass at Phoenix Park in Dublin on Aug. 26, 2018, to close the World Meeting of Families 2018. Photo by Maxwell Photography/WMOF2018

DUBLIN (RNS) — Dublin was a divided city this weekend as Pope Francis’ visit, the first by a Catholic pontiff since 1979, stopped traffic and dominated conversation in pubs, on public transportation, in taxis, shops, and on the street.

For many in this overwhelmingly Catholic country, the pope’s appearance at the World Meeting of Families was a historic occasion to be celebrated, despite the latest reports of clergy sex abuse in the United States and Australia and Catholic bishops’ alleged attempts to cover them up.

For Nick Wall, a Londoner who attended the closing Mass Sunday (Aug. 26) with his wife, Susan, and their two teenage children, it’s time to forge a new church focused on supporting the faith of young people.

“There’s always been historical problems.” Wall told Religion News Service. “We all need to acknowledge things have happened and move forward with it.”

Others regarded Francis’ visit as a painful reminder of the profound harm done by an institution that has deeply shaped life in Ireland.

As approximately 130,000 pilgrims made their way into Phoenix Park to celebrate the closing Mass with the pope, some 5,000 were estimated to have attended a “Stand4Truth” rally at the Garden of Remembrance.

Thousands of people attend the “Stand4Truth” rally at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin to protest Pope Francis’ visit on Aug. 26, 2018. RNS photo by Christine A. Scheller

One of those protesters was Ann Harper of Dublin, who was mindful of the church’s long history of mistreatment of its more vulnerable members. As a child, Harper said, she saw unmarried pregnant women working in a convent laundry on visits to her great aunt who was a nun. “I’m praying and hoping today that my relative was kind to those women who had babies,” she said.

In his two-day tour of Ireland, the pontiff attempted to reach both of these audiences. At several stops he acknowledged clerical abuse in Ireland, while straining to focus on the theme of the benefits of family life.

Earlier on Sunday, at a shrine to the Virgin Mary in the village of Knock, Francis said he silently prayed for all the victims of abuse committed by members of the Catholic Church in Ireland. He met with eight abuse survivors on Saturday and addressed the scandal in a speech to government officials at Dublin Castle.

In his closing homily, Francis departed from his script and sought forgiveness for exploitation and abuses “of power, conscience, and sexual abuse perpetrated by members with roles of responsibility in the Church” in Ireland.

“We ask forgiveness for the times that as a Church we did not show survivors of whatever kind of abuse compassion and the seeking of justice and truth through concrete action,” he said.

Francis encouraged Catholics to be honest about the difficulty of following Jesus in turbulent times.

“Many of (the apostles) were upset, confused or even angry, struggling to accept his ‘hard sayings,’” he said, quoting from the Gospel of John, “so contrary to the wisdom of this world. In response, the Lord tells them directly: ‘The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.’”

The pope encouraged attendees to take all they heard and experienced this week back to their homes to be “a source of encouragement to others” and to share with their loved ones Jesus’ words of eternal life.

He described families as “both a privileged place for, and an important means of, spreading those words as ‘Good News’ for everyone, especially those who long to leave behind the desert and the ‘house of bondage.’”

Pope Francis speaks at Croke Park in Dublin on Aug. 25, 2018, during the World Meeting of Families 2018. Photo by Maxwell Photography/WMOF2018

As the pontiff flew back to Rome, he faced reporters’ questions about a letter released Sunday by the Vatican’s former ambassador to the United States alleging that both Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were complicit in allowing former Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick to continue in ministry even after McCarrick had been sanctioned for having sexual contact with seminarians in his charge.

In the letter, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, wrote that the pope should resign.

Francis refused to comment on the letter, telling reporters to “make your own judgment.” Later he suggested that he would address Vigano’s allegations at a later date.

The cloud hanging over Francis’ appearance, said Irish abuse survivor Colm O’Gorman, who organized the event at the Garden of Remembrance, was a bittersweet contrast to Saint John Paul II’s visit nearly 40 years ago. With 300,000 in attendance at a Mass in Galway, “John Paul held out his arms and said,’Young people of Ireland, I love you,’” O’Gorman recalled.

“I remember that moment because I believed him,” he said.

A year and a half later, O’Gorman was raped by a Catholic priest who had been ordained months before John Paul II’s visit despite multiple accusations against him. The priest remained in ministry for years until O’Gorman sought justice for himself.

“Now when I think about ‘Young people of Ireland, I love you,’ I think, ‘No, you didn’t. You did not love us. And we have discovered over the last 20 years the depth of how you did not love us,” he said.

The protest was followed by a silent procession to Gloucester Street laundry, one of Ireland’s infamous Magdalene laundries that relegated unmarried mothers to confinement and menial labor.

At the laundry, which closed in 1996, O’Gorman recalled to journalists how John Paul II rode down Gloucester Street without stopping to acknowledge the detention of women and girls there. “They weren’t allowed outside to watch him pass,” the abuse survivor said.

Francis stopped for a moment of reflection at a nearby church, he said, but didn’t visit the abuse site either. “So we’ve come to this building,” O’Gorman said.

Pope Francis leads Mass at Phoenix Park in Dublin on Aug. 26, 2018, during the World Meeting of Families 2018. Photo by Maxwell Photography/WMOF2018

While 500,000 were expected at the closing Mass in Phoenix Park on Sunday, heavy rain in the morning and an arduous walk through Phoenix Park to the event site may have contributed to the lower turnout.

The previous day, an estimated 82,500 people attended the Festival of Families at Croke Park stadium, a celebration of family life that included music by Irish stars Daniel O’Donnell and Nathan Carter and international superstar Andrea Bocelli, along with more than 2,000 other performers.

Whether celebrating or protesting, many of those who attended the events of the weekend agreed the abuse scandal had colored their experience. Anthony Coleman, a Dublin taxi driver, attended the Festival of Families, where his 14-year-old grandson sang in one of the choirs.

“I love everything that’s going on, with the exception of the abuse and everybody being upset about that,” Coleman said. “I’m a little bit annoyed that some people are using the abuse just to give out or fight.”

As he watched the pope enter Croke Park, Coleman said he wanted to cry with joy. At a pub for a pint afterwards, his buddies admitted having the same emotional response, he said.

Archbishop William Slattery of Pretoria, South Africa, attended both the Festival of Families and the closing Mass.

“The pope has been welcomed with great joy by the people,” Slattery said, noting that the vast majority of abuse took place the 1970s and’ 80s before the church took firm action to stop it. But he conceded that there was “an element of people that feel certain issues of the past have not been cleared up yet and much more must be done about it.”

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Christine A. Scheller

54 Comments

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  • While you have a lot you to need to apologize for to the people in the Disqus conversations you post in.

  • Bob Jose Jack Arnzen Carioca, among his many other names, is for good reason now referred to accurately here as Bob Arnzhole.

  • No, Bob Arnzhole, Spuddie’s posts generally are accurate, concise, and thoughtful -quite the opposite of your own.

  • That green…thing…that Francis is wearing in the top photo…
    Didn’t the Brady Bunch wear something similar during one of their musical numbers?

  • So there’s this giant rainy cloud standing over Mr. Francis with Ms.Collins grim words “Nothing New” emblazoned on it, even as the Pope gives his speeches. The dark shadow of Mr. McCarrick (no it ain’t gonna go away ) falls on Francis himself. Ireland is clearly lost, and Francis is helpless. Game over, honestly.

    No cleaning house, no risk-taking, no warfare. NO insistence on going back to the Bible as THE standard. Nothing new.

    But the reality is that God still exists, and Christ still rules, big-time. So do NOT count out the Catholic Church. This giant Scandal, and all its Victims, and all its Perps and Crooks, are not too hard for God. God can still make a way out of no way, God can still heal the very deepest hurts and abuses. Divine things are still happening in Catholicism that many folks don’t even know about. Don’t give up, Catholics. It ain’t over.

  • ” Pope Francis closes Ireland visit with appeals to divided Catholics ”

    Appeals ?

    Ho many innocent children ” appealed ” to the priest/bishop/cardinal/pope to not rape them – again and again and again….

  • Apologies are worthless without actions to change those things that allowed the abuse to happen.

    For decades (centuries), priests have used confession to absolve themselves of all guilt while changing nothing. Here, Francis even asked forgiveness for the church not taking concrete action – while taking no concrete action.

    It is all noise. An attempt to placate until the rage dissipates.

  • One child being raped by one priest in one church was too much for your god.

    It, according to your theology, sees all. It watched as a child was raped by a priest in a church and was unwilling and unable to do shit.

    Multiply this by 1000 known cases in just part of Pennsylvania, then add the unknown cases in that region, and the known and unknown cases in other parts of PA, and the rest of the US, and around the globe.

    What good is a deity that cannot stop it’s own priests from raping 7 year olds?

  • When challenged I support with facts.

    That’s the difference between pontificating and what I try to accomplish.

  • Does god really need you to tell him what to do? As Patrick points out, this is hardly a new problem.

    Does god not call these deeply pernicious, disordered, and evil men to the the priesthood? Does the church not verify their vocations? Does god watch all of this going on, and have nothing to say?

  • “Does god not call these deeply pernicious, disordered, and evil men to the the priesthood?”

    No.

    “Does the church not verify their vocations?”

    Not perfectly. The Church militant is an organization of human beings.

    “Does god watch all of this going on, and have nothing to say?”

    To you, nothing. If you won’t accept what the deity has already provided you, why would you hear the deity today?

  • The faithful are called upon to repent for themselves, the church and others. The are called to make reparations to God for the sins of the world. So yes, we are called to pray for good and holy priests.

    As you well know, there is both good and evil in the world. The devil has reign over the world; so that may be what has entered the church and caused these men to sin, forsake their vows and to blaspheme God.

    God has given men free will; as you know and take advantage of every moment of your life. If man wants to become treacherous upon being called to the priesthood; God will not stop him- but he will be judged upon his death.

    Sunday’s reading from the book of Joshua was very appropriate:
    “Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel. When they stood at their ranks before God, Joshua addressed the people and said: If it does not please you to serve The Lord, decide today whom you will serve; the God of your fathers or the gods of this world. As for me and my household, I choose to serve the Lord”.

    These fithly priests and the hierarchy that protected them have chosen to serve the gods of this world.

  • No, I think it’s pretty much time for Catholics to give up !! The institution may corrupted beyond repair.

  • the institution perhaps . the secrecy and top down structure are sinking the bureaucracy , but the assembly of catholic peoples will move on with the mission .

  • I related to someone earlier today in a conversation here at RNS about running into a freshly ordained Catholic priest in Maryland.

    He related that he had gone through twelve years of Catholic education, grade school, high school, and it was not until he was in college and happened to talk to a priest at the Newman Center that he found at that Catholics believed that at the consecration the bread and wine became the Body and Blood.

    He was blown away.

    And that’s why so many Catholics seem to agree with you.

    You, on the other hand, are old enough and educated enough to know better. I would expect, were I you, to be more harshly judged then they.

  • Two worst things to be inflicted on Ireland were the British Empire and the Roman Church. Both held the Irish back for centuries. It is a pity that the Irish could not at least breakaway and find their own church like the Scots did. Instead, Ireland bounced between the devil and the deep blue sea which was which depends on one’s perspective.

  • “He went to his father’s home at Ophrah, and there, on one STONE, they killed all seventy of his half brothers, the sons of Gideon. But the youngest brother, Jotham, escaped and hid. Then all the leading citizens of Shechem and Beth-millo called a meeting under the oak beside the pillar at Shechem and made Abimelech their king.

    And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you. The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honor God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us. But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees? Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us. And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheer God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us. And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.” (Judges 9)

    Come on guys the devil dances all over the house with big logs in thy eyes, men of the forest. Come to Jesus, throw away all wood, hay, stubble of statues of Peter, Paul and Mary. They are not your savior. Only Jesus is the Son of God.

  • My reference, of course, was to reproductive choice and diverting public funds to church schools.

  • And my reference, of course, was that your appeal is to the ignorant.

    There is NO “diverting public funds to church schools”.

    Every single penny of public funds is extracted from the public, and is to be used for such purposes and projects as the public chooses.

    If educating children is a public goal, and the public approves spending money on non-religious items for ALL children such as books, buses, or tuition, then its going to its intended purposes.

    I appreciate your zany takes – I used to read them in the Washington Post – but they are zany.

  • What Bob pretends not to grasp is that 85-90% of private schools (Catholic, Jewish, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Adventist, Muslim, etc.) are pervasively religious institutions, and Madison, Jefferson, Franklin, and most of the rest of the Founders concurred that no taxpayer should be compelled to support them. Further, in 28 state referenda from coast to coast from 1965 to 2014 millions of voters rejected all plans to divert public funds to private schools by a 2 to 1 margin, including in DeVos’s Michigan (3 times!).

  • Yeah, a story built entirely on the account of the suicide victim’s mother. Any independent corroboration? Any?

    Some people have gaydar.

    Other people have every-trans-person-who-kills-xheself-must-have-been-bullied-dar.

  • The Constitution does NOT prevent public monies from providing basis services – books, safety equipment, playground improvements, busing – to students in “pervasively religious institutions”.

    That is settled law.

  • No, it does not.

    What does stand is the First Amendment, which prohibits an establishment of religion.

    So, textbooks can be provided, but not religious training material.

    Playgrounds can be surfaced, but chapels can’t be carpeted.

    Busing to and from school is fine. Busing to church is not.

    There’s a reason you avoid actual court cases, and the examples I just gave illustrate it.

  • I am quite familiar with the relevant court cases and author of a law journal article on them. I have also been involved with over 60 church-state cases, including some before the SCOTUS.

  • Show me a coroner’s report – otherwise, it’s just an unsubstantiated accusation.

    Other factors to consider from the biased reporting:

    (1) His mom was a single mom, suggesting no father-figure in his life.
    Easier for boys without a male role model to get gender dysphoria.

    (2) How do I put this delicately, but the mother was clearly what is called
    a “coal burner”. Her son – was he Black? was he White? There’s a
    whole lot of stuff there.

    (3) As a single mom, what were her priorities in life? Sleeping around? We don’t know.

    (4) What other psychological factors were at play here? We don’t know.

  • Since America is so “racist”, it must be tough being in two worlds.

    Again, where is the independent corroboration he was actually bullied?

  • Diverting public funds to sectarian private schools is NOT a public benefit, for reasons I ans others have spelled out in numerous venues — and the voters agree by 2 to 1.

  • I provided one Supreme Court case.

    Push it and I’ll provide another dozen.

    Your side lost. Big time. Get over it.

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