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Pope Francis greeted a recently married couple at St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Dublin Aug. 25.
Pope Francis greeted a recently married couple at St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Dublin Aug. 25.
Photo Credit: Paul Haring | Catholic News Service

WORLD MEETING OF FAMILIES: Pope begins closing Mass with penitential plea for abuse scandals

Two-day trip to Ireland was largely focused on issues related to clergy abuse

DUBLIN — Before celebrating Mass in a Dublin park, Pope Francis solemnly asked forgiveness for the thousands of cases of sexual and physical abuse perpetrated by Catholics in Ireland.

“We ask forgiveness for the abuse in Ireland, abuse of power and of conscience, sexual abuse” by clergy and religious, he said Aug. 26. “In a special way, we ask forgiveness for all the abuse committed in the different institutions run by religious men and religious women and other members of the Church.”

In a litany of recognition and prayers for the Lord’s mercy, Pope Francis formally asked forgiveness for the forced labor that even children were forced to perform in Church institutions.

And, responding to a request made by two survivors he had met Aug. 25, the pope asked forgiveness for all the babies taken from their unwed mothers and put up for adoption without their mothers consent.

“We apologize for some members of the hierarchy who did not own up to these painful situations and remained silent,” he said. “We ask for forgiveness.”

The pope’s penitential plea followed the introductory remarks of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, who told the pope, “The Church in Ireland has gone through challenging times. People have been wounded in the depth of their being by Church people; people’s faith has been challenged and the Church of Jesus Christ has been wounded.”

“Faith in Ireland is strong,” he said, and “faith in Ireland is fragile,” but that is not necessarily a surprise. “There is an intrinsic fragility in faith can steer us away from arrogance and self-centeredness.”

The Mass was the official closing of the World Meeting of Families, and Pope Francis used the homily to urge families from around the world to harness their joy and use it to transform the world into a place where all people feel loved, welcomed and supported in their commitments to each other.

“The Church as a whole is called to ‘go forth’ to bring the words of eternal life to all the peripheries of our world,” the pope told tens of thousands of people gathered in a slightly sodden Phoenix Park.

A view of the crowd from the altar was that of a mosaic of brightly colored rain gear flapping in the wind. But even close to the altar platform there were large open spaces set aside for people who never arrived.

At the end of the homily, Pope Francis urged each person present — “parents and grandparents, children and young people, men and women, religious brothers and sisters, contemplatives and missionaries, deacons and priests” — to share “the Gospel of the family as joy for the world!”

The Catholic teaching on marriage and family life is often challenging and not universally accepted, he said, but Jesus Himself promised that His words “are spirit and life.”

In fact, he said, it is the Holy Spirit who “constantly breathes new life into our world, into our hearts, into our families, into our homes and parishes. Each new day in the life of our families, and each new generation, brings the promise of a new Pentecost, a domestic Pentecost, a fresh outpouring of the Spirit, the paraclete, whom Jesus sends as our advocate, our consoler and indeed our encourager.”

The world needs such encouragement, the pope said, and laypeople in families are the best ones to give it.

Pope Francis said participants, filled with enthusiasm after the World Meeting of Families, also need to “humbly acknowledge that, if we are honest with ourselves, we, too, can find the teachings of Jesus hard.”

At Knock shrine, pope begs forgiveness for abuse

KNOCK, Ireland — On a foggy, soggy day at a Marian shrine in County Mayo, Pope Francis said he prayed before a statue of Our Lady of Knock for all those who suffered sexual and physical abuse by Catholic clergy or in Catholic-run institutions in Ireland.

“ of us can fail to be moved by the stories of young people who suffered abuse, were robbed of their innocence or who were taken from their mothers and left scarred by painful memories,” the pope said Aug. 26.

The “open wound” of the memory and trauma of abuse “challenges us to be firm and decisive in the pursuit of truth and justice,” the pope told thousands of people filling the shrine church and seated outside. “I beg the Lord’s forgiveness for these sins and for the scandal and betrayal felt by so many others in God’s family.”

He prayed that Mary would “intercede for the healing of the survivors and to confirm every member of our Christian family in the resolve never again to permit these situations to occur.”

The previous day, at the welcome ceremony on his arrival in Ireland, the pope acknowledged the failures “of bishops, religious superiors, priests and others” in the Catholic Church to protect children from the “repugnant crimes” of physical and sexual abuse.

Families called to share joy, love, life with the world, pope says

DUBLIN — In a stadium of Catholic families from around the world, Pope Francis told the laypeople they are the vast majority of Church members and that, without them, the Church would be cold, a collection of statues.

“God wants every family to be a beacon of joy of His love to our world,” the pope said Aug. 25, celebrating the Festival of Families in Dublin’s Croke Park Stadium.

Families from India, Canada, Iraq, Ireland and Burkina Faso stood on stage near the pope while pre-recorded video versions of their testimonies played.

The Canadian couple, Marissa and Aldo d’Andrea of Toronto, spoke about their 54 years of marriage, their four children and 13 grandchildren — and one on the way.

The Iraqi couple, Enass and Sarmaad Mekhael, are refugees living in Australia. Enass’ brother was Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni, a 35-year-old Chaldean Catholic priest murdered in 2007 at a parish in Mosul, Iraq.

The families, who have faced joys and heartache and have held on to each other and to their faith, are models of how each Catholic family is called to give a witness in the world to the love of God, he said.

“That is what holiness is all about,” he said. “I like to speak of the saints next door, all those ordinary people who reflect God’s presence in the life and history of the world.”

Pope Francis insisted, “The vocation to love and to holiness is not something reserved for a privileged few,” but is a call that comes with baptism.

One key aspect of God’s love is God’s willingness to forgive, and that is an essential part of family life, too, the pope said.

“The love of Christ that renews all things is what makes possible marriage and a conjugal love marked by fidelity, indissolubility, unity and openness to life,” he said. “God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — created mankind in His image to share in his love, to be a family of families and to enjoy the peace that he alone can give.”

— Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

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