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Abuse survivors are ‘top priority’ on agenda of Irish bishops’ summit with Pope
Bishop Joseph Duffy speaks at the Sunday afternoon press conference in Rome.
Bishop Joseph Duffy speaks at the Sunday afternoon press conference in Rome.

.- In a Sunday afternoon media briefing at the Irish College in Rome, Bishop of Clogher Joseph Duffy, chair of the communications commission of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, revealed details of this week’s meetings with the Pope and members of Vatican congregations. He emphasized that survivors are the “top priority” of the discussions.

Bishop Duffy said the summit will not be a “cosmetic exercise” and reported that Irish bishops will be encouraged to speak frankly.

“Following the publication of the Murphy Report, the Holy Father has, due to the very serious situation which prevails in the Church in Ireland, called individual bishops to Rome,” stated Bishop Duffy at the briefing.

He indicated that it was important that Benedict XVI had invited the prelates not as a conference, but as individuals.

The bishop reported that over Monday and Tuesday, 24 bishops from Ireland will be meeting with the Holy Father and high-ranking members of the pontifical congregations. There will be three total meetings over the two-day period.

Each of the bishops will have the floor with Pope Benedict for seven minutes. Cardinal Sean Brady, primate of all Ireland, will be the first of the Irish delegation to speak.

In the meetings, said Bishop Duffy, the group will examine problems and “consider an approach that will help to give assurance to families and restore confidence and serenity to the clergy and the faithful.”

Having consulted with survivors, clergy, religious and lay faithful in their dioceses in recent weeks, each bishop will use the time he has with the Pope and the prefects of the various congregations to “speak from his own experience.”

Bishop Duffy said that victims of abuse will be “at the top of the list of priorities.” He emphasized that when they speak to the Holy Father “the very first concern has to be the question of survivors and the enormous injustice and cruelty that they have suffered, and we must never lose sight of that as a priority.”

“Each of us will speak to the Holy Father personally and we have been encouraged to speak in a frank, open way,” added the bishop.

The entire summit would be "a flop,” he said, if the bishops were to leave out important details or “if this was to be seen simply as a formality or some kind of a glossing over (of) the difficult parts. It’s meant to be frank and open, and if it’s not either of those it will not have succeeded.”

The challenge is in the bishops’ hands to make their cases a strongly as possible, Bishop Duffy commented. He added that the bishops would let Pope Benedict down “if we didn’t say what was on our mind… and that’s the whole point of the exercise.”

Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone will attend the meeting as will members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Bishops, the Congregation for the Clergy, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the Congregation for Catholic Education, and the Pontifical Council for the Integration of Legislative Texts.

A full press conference will take place on Tuesday at the conclusion of the meeting with the Holy Father to conclude at 1 p.m. on that day to allow time for the bishops to return to their dioceses for Ash Wednesday celebrations.

Bishop Duffy assured the Sunday media briefing that a pastoral letter will come about “in due course” from the Holy Father, after he has heard the bishops’ accounts and has had time to consider what they had to say.

“Otherwise, it wouldn’t be taken fully seriously… this is not just a cosmetic exercise as some people might seem to think, it’s very serious,” he remarked.

“The fullness of truth must come out,” he said, “everything must be laid on the table.”


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April 23, 2014

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