The adoption and implementation of a new child protection policy by the Church in Ireland is a sign of hope for the future, said Bishop Seamus Hegarty of Derry.
"We have long since accepted that we, as Church leaders, have failed in our responsibilities in the past," said the bishop. But with the new policy, he said: "We can look to the future with a new-found hope and expectation."
He referred to the humility Pope John Paul II showed when he visited his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, in prison and suggested that Irish bishops need to show the same kind of humility with regard to sex abuse.
The bishop made these comments during a meeting in Dublin of the Irish bishops’ agency for Irish prisoners overseas.
With regard to prisoners overseas, the bishop said he was "horrified" by the conditions some Irish citizens in prisons overseas.
He urged the Irish government to increase the number of countries with which it has bilateral agreements in order that Irish prisoners overseas might have the option of serving their sentence in Ireland rather than abroad. The families of Irish people in jails abroad are often left to suffer in silence, he added.
Bishop Hegarty also urged against the privatization of prisons in Ireland, which may put the dignity of prisoners at risk in the name of efficiency.