Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Pope Francis in Dublin Castle on Saturday. Photo by Maxwells Photography.
By Anthony Neeson
Welcoming Pope Francis on his arrival to Ireland, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar asked the pontiff to use his influence to bring about justice and truth for survivors of church abuse.
Mr. Varadkar was speaking in front of invited guests at Dublin Castle at the start of the pope’s two-day visit to the Republic on Saturday.
The taoiseach also said that Ireland “is a different country” to the one Pope John Paul II famously visited back in 1979.
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“Holy Father, during your papacy, we have all witnessed your compassion for those on the edge of our society, those who have not shared in our relative prosperity, those who have slipped through the net,” said the taoiseach.
“Your visit to the Capuchin Day Centre later today reminds us of work we still have to do to ensure that the promise of the New Testament is fulfilled, that we rejoice with the truth, always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere, and never fail.
“At times in the past we have failed. There are ‘dark aspects’ of the Catholic Church’s history, as one of our bishops recently said.
“We think of the words of the Psalm which tells us that ‘children are a heritage from the Lord’ and we remember the way the failures of both Church and State and wider society created bitter and broken heritage for so many, leaving a legacy of pain and suffering.
“It is a history of sorrow and shame.
“In place of Christian charity, forgiveness and compassion, far too often there was judgment, severity and cruelty, in particular, towards women and children and those on the margins.
“Magdalene Laundries, Mother and Baby Homes, industrial schools, illegal adoptions and clerical abuse are stains on our State, our society and also the Catholic Church. Wounds are still open and there is much to be done to bring about justice and truth and healing for victims and survivors.
“Holy Father, I ask that you use your office and influence to ensure this is done here in Ireland and across the world. We must now ensure that from words flow actions.”
Speaking about the referenda in Ireland in recent years on divorce, abortion and same sex marriage, the taoiseach said it was time to build a new relationship between church and state in Ireland.
“It is my hope that your visit marks the opening of a new chapter in the relationship between Ireland and the Catholic Church,” the Taoiseach added.
“Building on our intertwined history, and learning from our shared mistakes, it can be one in which religion is no longer at the center of our society, but in which it still has an important place.
“Ireland is a different country than it was 39 years ago. Modern Ireland is still a country with faith and spirit and values. Family, community, enterprise, social justice, diversity, openness and internationalism, equality before the law, and individual liberty – these values describe the Republic we aspire to be.”