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Marie Collins: Pope was 'not familiar' with Magdalen laundries or industrial schools

The pope was “not clear” on the issues during Saturday’s meeting, Collins said.

Updated Aug 27th 2018, 1:46 PM

Pope Francis visit to Ireland - Day 2Pope FrancisSource: Danny Lawson/PA Images

LEADING CAMPAIGNER MARIE Collins has said the pope was not familiar with Magdalen Laundries or industrial schools, when she met with him on Saturday evening alongside other abuse survivors.

In the meeting with eight abuse survivors, the pope expressed astonishment that the laundries and industrial schools had ever existed, according to others present.

Those who met with him said Pope Francis was "taken aback" and "shocked" as to what went on at mother and baby homes, and professed to have "no idea" what a Magdalen Laundry was.

"I spoke to him about industrial schools and Magdalen Laundries, both of which he appeared to know nothing about," Bernadette Fahy, a survivor of the Goldenbridge orphanage in south Dublin who was in attendance at the meeting, told the Irish Times.

"He hadn't ever heard the concept before, that was quite shocking to me. He was very good at actually getting to the root of that, what was that, what were they, he had no idea of the purpose of them," she said.

Speaking to Miriam O'Callaghan on RTÉ Radio this morning Collins said that Pope Francis was "not clear on" Magdalen Laundries and industrial schools.

He had heard of mother and baby homes, Collins said - "it was more the Magdalen Laundries and industrial schools that were new to him - but he did want to know more about them, it wasn't that he was denying them or anything, he just wasn't familiar".

Speaking at the launch of the pope's itinerary back in June Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin told reporters the pope “has been and will be” briefed on the extent of abuse by the clergy and other Church members.

Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin last night told RTÉ that he wasn't sure "with so many countries" if the pope "really understood what this was about" with regard to the Pope's apparent lack of knowledge of institutions here.

"Clearly his meeting with survivors has really brought that home to him, and he was deeply moved by that particular account, and did mention it again today during the penitential rite of Mass, the shameful period in which church and society really colluded in making young women feel shame," he said.

The Church has to accept its share in responsibility for that and I do hope that those kinds of episodes are long behind us.
False birth registrationsMinister for Children Katherine ZapponeSource: Niall Carson

Katherine Zappone, the children's minister, raised the issue of the Tuam Mother and Baby home with Pope Francis on Saturday.

Revealing in detail what she had told him this morning, she said she told him in Italian that she is responsible for the Tuam Mother and Baby Home where the remains of children were found in a sewage system.

“I hope the church will make reparations for its part in this shameful chapter. It is important and I will write to you in detail,” she said.

The minister said that the pope responded to her in English and thanked her for her words.

During a speech at Dublin Castle after meeting the minister, Pope Francis broke from his prepared script to refer to his meeting with Zappone.

“I thanked her, up to the point she touched my heart. This is why I wanted to repeat it afterwards,” he said.

Speaking to reporters on his flight back to Rome, the pope said that he will study a memorandum provided by the Children’s minister on the issue of mother and baby homes.

He said Zappone told him that authorities “found mass graves of children, buried children”.

“She told me, and she was brief: ‘Holy Father, we found mass graves of children, buried children, we’re investigating… and the Church has something to do with this.’ But she said it very politely and truly with a lot of respect. I thanked her to the point that this had touched my heart,” Pope Francis said.

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In April, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told RTÉ that he had told the pope personally about the Tuam Mother and Baby Home, where 796 babies and children died and were buried in a mass grave between 1925 and 1961, and that the pope had been visibly upset at hearing the detail.

At his Mass yesterday, which followed his Saturday meeting with survivors, the pope said:

“We ask forgiveness for the abuse in Ireland. Abuses of power, conscience and sexual abuse perpetrated by members with roles of responsibility in the Church.

“In a special way we ask pardon for all the abuses committed in various institutions run by male or female religious members of the Church and we ask for forgiveness for those cases of exploitation through manual work that so many young women and men were subjected to.

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 actions. We ask for forgiveness.
- With reporting by Daragh Brophy and Ceimin Burke 

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