.- Pope Benedict XVI urged the Catholic bishops of Ireland to deal effectively with the problems of clergy sexual abuse that have taken place to the “take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again.”
In his message to the Irish bishops, issued over the weekend on the occasion of their ad limina visit, the Pope acknowledged that the bishop have had to respond to “many heart-rending cases of sexual abuse of minors.”
“These are all the more tragic when the abuser is a cleric,” said Benedict. “The wounds caused by such acts run deep, and it is an urgent task to rebuild confidence and trust where these have been damaged.”
“In your continuing efforts to deal effectively with this problem, it is important to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes,” he urged.
“In this way, the Church in Ireland will grow stronger and be ever more capable of giving witness to the redemptive power of the Cross of Christ.”
“The fine work and selfless dedication of the great majority of priests and religious in Ireland should not be obscured by the transgressions of some of their brethren,” the pontiff said. “I am certain that the people understand this, and continue to regard their clergy with affection and esteem.
“Encourage your priests always to seek spiritual renewal and to discover afresh the joy of ministering to their flocks within the great family of the Church,” he said.
The Pope also acknowledged the “outstanding contribution that Ireland has made to the life of the Church, and the extraordinary courage of her missionary sons and daughters who have carried the Gospel message far beyond her shores.”
The Church today continues to have an important role to play in leading the people through a time of change in Irish society, marked by immigration, as well as increased secularism and materialism, the Pope said.
He urged them to “be bold in speaking to [the people] of the joy that comes from following Christ and living according to his commandments.” At the same time, he said, the bishops must work to “correct the idea that Catholicism is merely ‘a collection of prohibitions’.”
“Sound catechesis and careful ‘formation of the heart’ are needed here, and in this regard you are blessed in Ireland with solid resources in your network of Catholic schools, and in so many dedicated religious and lay teachers who are seriously committed to the education of the young,” he continued.
The Pope warned against “superficial presentations of Catholic teaching” and urged the bishops to exercise vigilance over the quality of the syllabuses and school textbooks.
“Only the fullness of the faith can communicate the liberating power of the Gospel,” he emphasized.
The Pope noted that the number of vocations in Ireland has sharply fallen in recent decades and he said he was pleased to learn that many dioceses had taken up silent prayer for vocations before the Blessed Sacrament.
“This should be warmly encouraged. Yet above all, it falls to you, the bishops, and to your clergy to offer young people an inspiring and attractive vision of the ordained priesthood,” he said.
The Pope concluded by expressing his prayerful concern for Northern Ireland. “It is my prayer that the committed efforts of those concerned [with working toward peace in Northern Ireland] will lead to the creation of a society marked by a spirit of reconciliation, mutual respect and willing cooperation for the common good of all,” he said.