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Cardinal Seán Brady at the press conference in Maynooth today on the publication of the Visitation's findings. Niall Carson/PA Wire
Apostolic Visitation

Irish Catholic bishops "make heartfelt pleas for forgiveness"

Statement from Irish bishops ‘welcomes’ findings of ‘pastoral’ Apostolic Visitation which was sent to Ireland from the Vatican – but Cardinal Brady says it doesn’t “supersede” the Church’s policy.

CARDINAL SEÁN BRADY, head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, said he “welcomed” the findings of a panel appointed by the Vatican to visit the four Irish archdioceses to look at how they were responding to the child abuse scandal.

A summary of the findings of the ‘Apostolic Visitation’ was published today. It suggested that new restrictions be placed on admission to seminaries and made other recommendations which it felt would help the “renewal” of the Catholic Church in Ireland. It also proposed a restructuring of the 26 dioceses in the country.

The Irish Bishops’ Conference held a press conference on the publication this morning. It said it was grateful to those who had co-operated in their meetings with the Vatican-picked panel, including survivors of child abuse, religious congregations, seminaries and the four archdioceses.

However, Cardinal Brady said that it was important to note that “the Visitation was not intended to replace or supersede the ongoing work of the Church in Ireland, the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, or the various state agencies in the efforts they have made, and continue to make, to deal effectively with child abuse”. He added:

Crucially therefore today’s report is different in nature and focus to the ongoing reviews which are being undertaken by the National Board into Ireland’s dioceses and congregations or the various state investigations.

He said that the report was a “helpful snapshot” of a particular time on “the ongoing journey of renewal”.

However, Cardinal Brady did say that he and the other Irish Catholic bishops “wish to associate ourselves with the ‘great sense of pain and shame’ expressed in the Visitation findings” over the abuse of children and the lack of vigilance of senior Catholic officials. He said:

In expressing, true sorrow and regret, we make our own heartfelt please for forgiveness from the victims, and from God, for these terrible crimes and sins.

The bishops highlighted a few of the recommendations of the Visitation as deserving “particular emphasis”:

They pledged to honour the call for a deeper communion between all parts of the Church, from bishops right down to lay persons. The Eucharistic Congress, to be held in Ireland this year, will be an opportunity to promote this – the theme of it ‘The Eucharist: Communiion with Christ and one another’.

They said they would “echo the call of the Visitation to the Catholic community in Ireland to ‘make its voice heard in the media and to establish a proper relationship with those active in this field, for the sake of making known the truth of the Gospel and the Church’s life’.

The Visitation report said there were “many clear signs of hope”, according to the Bishops’ Conference. These include the number of volunteers within the “safeguarding structures who bring the highest level of professionalism to the service of the Christian community” and the “acknowledgement that the work of the National Board for Safeguarding Children has been ‘thorough and far-reaching’.

Cardinal Brady also quoted part of the pastoral letter issued by Pope Benedict XVI to Irish Catholics in March 20120 where he said he was “truly sorry” for the suffering caused to victims of clerical abuse.

Vatican visitors propose Church reforms to deal with abuse fallout>

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