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Bishop Leahy thanks abuse victims who hung on to faith

By Sarah Mac Donald - 04 November, 2013

Morale among Irish priests “very challenged” by abuse scandals.

Bishop Elect Fr Brendan Leahy at St Johns Cathedral ILIM 12-01-13 (4)Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick has thanked the victims of Church abuse who “despite everything” have hung on to their faith.

In a homily at a Mass of healing and hope for survivors of abuse at St Saviour’s Church in Limerick at the weekend, the Bishop thanked them for coming together as part of the Church’s “ongoing process of reconciliation.”

He told the congregation that they were all there because “we want to support one another and, in some way, bring comfort and healing to what has been a most painful experience for many here today.”

He added, “It is moving that so many are here, still caring enough to want to be here, despite the abuse you have suffered in the past.”  

The service was organised by the ‘Right of Place, Second Chance’ support group for survivors of institutional child abuse. It is only the second such Mass. Last year, it was held in Waterford.

Referring to the Church as one Body, Dr Leahy said the sufferings of one member of that body had an impact on other members.

“We are to care for one another because we really do belong to one another. And that’s why, on the day of my ordination as bishop, I said: “We know only too well of how many innocent people suffer terrible darkness because of clerical abuse. I want to make their pain my own and seek forgiveness seventy times seven. It is a deep wound also for all of us,” he said.

He told the survivors and their families assembled in Limerick that he was repeating that message. “We need to ask forgiveness of God and of you for failure to pay the basic debt we owe one another – to love one another as Jesus commanded us the night before he died. If those of us who act in the name of the Church do not love we have forgotten who we are.”

The Bishop also suggested that the victims of either clerical or institutional abuse gathered in St Saviour’s could take some consolation from the concerted efforts of many to ensure that “the horror of institutional and clerical abuse will never be allowed to happen again.”

“Across the world, across our country, these lessons are being learned. Measures to protect the most precious are being implemented. We have come a long way in that regard and will not relent in our efforts to ensure that this Diocese does its best, especially for the youngest members among us,” he pledged.

Speaking to CatholicIreland.net, the Bishop, who was installed in April, said every member of the Irish clergy “is hurting” on account of the “sins” of those priests and Religious who abused children.

He described morale among Irish priests as “very challenged” by the abuse scandals. It had been “a difficult for the wider clergy” he said, but he suggested that morale would be “replenished” as confidence in the Church was restored.

Referring to his meeting with survivors and their families, Bishop Leahy said they were anxious that their story be recognised. He suggested that no pain the clergy felt “measures up to that which has been experienced by people who were abused and their immediate family.”

The Bishop also warned priests that they must face up to the issue of clerical abuse and become “an active part of society’s efforts to address the enormity and reality of abuse in society as a whole.”

They “must never forget that this has happened and must continue, not just seeking forgiveness, but to make sure that the Church is a sanctuary for all,” he said.

Asked about the recent Sweeney Review of the Murphy Report on the handling of allegations of clerical abuse in the Dublin diocese, which was launched at the Association of Catholic Priests last week, the Bishop said the Church “can never lose sight of the fact that the Murphy Report arose because of alarming abuse of children by clergy.”

He said the unveiling of abuse had led to huge advances in child safeguarding services in the Church though he acknowledged that the abuse could not be undone. “We must also work to make sure it does not happen again,” he said.

A few weeks ago Bishop Leahy celebrated Mass of Reconciliation for the past pupils of St Joseph’s Industrial School in Glin. He told CatholicIreland.net that he commended the work of organisations like ‘Right of Place’ and all those working with and on behalf of people affected by abuse.

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