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Archbishop Martin hopes the Pope will challenge the Irish Church to be different

By Cian Molloy - 19 August, 2018

With a week to go before the papal visit to Ireland, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin says he hopes Pope Francis will challenge the Church in Ireland.

In his Sunday Mass homily at the pro-Cathedral, Archbishop Martin said the 36-hour-long papal visit would be “short, yet intense” and that the days leading up to it were marked by both “widespread expectation and joy and enthusiasm” and “many anxieties about our Catholic Church in Ireland and wider afield”.

“As we await the visit of Pope Francis, we look at a complex horizon of our Irish Church,” Dr Martin said. “The scandals of abuse in the Church have produced a deep-seated resentment among believers. It is not just anger over the horror of abuse, but an anger at the role of Church leadership in compounding the suffering of so many in institutions for children, for unmarried mothers and for vulnerable women. These were people who found themselves placed in the care the Church to be loved and respected but who so often encountered extraordinary harshness.

“What is worse, they were in the main poor and vulnerable people, those who should above all have been the privileged recipients of what the love and care of Jesus Christ mean. I keep asking myself what it was in Irish Catholicism that led to such a level of harshness.

“When you add up all the categories of victims, you can see that the number was immense. We still only know the identity of some. It is not something that belongs to the past but a hurt that survivors and those close to them carry in their hearts every day of their lives.

“The anger is not just about abuse but also about a Church that was authoritarian, harsh, autocratic and self-protecting. Rather than bringing the liberating message of the love of God, it imposed a world of rules to such an extent that it lacked respect for the personal life of many and especially of women. We experienced a Church that felt that it knew all the answers. We experienced a Church that failed to form mature consciences and help men and women.”

It would be difficult for Pope Francis to fully address the depth and complexity of the hurts that have been caused by the failings of the Church’s leadership and by the evil wrought by some churchmen. “He is not going to be able to provide all the answers to the questions that people ask,” said Dr Martin. “My hope is that he will speak kindly but also speak frankly. The recent history of the Church in Ireland had its moments of real darkness. We need a Church of light, a light that exposes darkness for what it is, and a light that is such that the mechanisms of cover-up and self-justification cannot extinguish or tone down.

“My hope is that Pope Francis will challenge the Church in Ireland to be different, to be more authentically the Church of Jesus Christ in a culture that is different.”

The Archbishop concluded his homily with a call to prayer: “As we prepare for the visit of Pope Francis, let us pray then for the Irish Church of the future. Let us pray for those who still suffer the effects of abuse. Let us pray for the lonely, the abandoned, those without hope. Let us pray for those who are without a home. Let us pray for those who are hurt because the Church does not adequately recognise their dignity. Let us pray for all families.

“Let us pray through the intercession of Mary, Mother of all believers.”

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