.- The first big phase in the renewal process of the Catholic Church in Ireland begins next fall. On Monday, "high profile" Church officials with "great specific experience" from the U.K., Ireland and North America were named to head the Apostolic Visitation the Holy Father promised Irish Catholics last March.
A statement delivered personally by Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi to journalists in the Holy See’s Press Office on Monday outlines Pope Benedict’s nominations for the visitors to the four metropolitan archdioceses of Ireland and the country's seminaries and religious houses.
He called those nominated "figures of high profile and great specific experience for the posts received."
Apostolic Visitors to Ireland's four archdioceses are Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Emeritus Archbishop of Westminster, who will visit the Archdiocese of Armagh; Cardinal Archbishop of Boston Sean Patrick O’Malley for the Archdiocese of Dublin; Archbishop of Toronto Thomas Christopher Collins, who will go to the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly; and Archbishop of Ottawa Terrence Thomas Prendergast for the Archdiocese of Tuam.
Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan has been tapped to work along with the Congregation for Catholic Education in examining centers of priestly formation, including the Irish College in Rome.
The visitation of religious houses will be organized by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and carried out by four leaders from religious communities who possess what Fr. Lombardi called “broad competence in formation and religious government.”
Redemptorist Fr. Joseph Tobin and Jesuit Fr. Gero McLaughlin will be the visitors to men’s orders, while Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Sharon Holland and Jesus and Mary Sr. Mairin McDonagh, the only Irish visitor, will occupy themselves with women’s houses.
According to the statement, the objectives of the visitation are to “more deeply explore questions concerning the handling of cases of abuse and the assistance owed to the victims” and to “monitor the effectiveness of and seek possible improvements to the current procedures for preventing abuse.”
It concludes with an invitation from Pope Benedict XVI for prayers of support from Irish Catholics for the initiative and his invocation of God’s blessings for their increased faith and hope and “renewed fervor in the Christian life.”
Fr. Lombardi told journalists that the timeframe of the visitation is “not yet determined,” but noted that the visitation will begin in Autumn 2010. He also emphasized that Apostolic Visitors are not delegates, who eventually carry out the service of renewal in areas of need highlighted by the results of visitations.
The Holy Father had told Irish Catholics in his Apostolic Letter on March 19 that an Apostolic Visitation would be forthcoming.