The previous day, Pope Francis met with two representatives from the Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors for a 90-minute meeting at the Papal Nuncio’s residence.
At the meeting was Clodagh Aileen Malone, who was born in the Saint Patrick’s Mother and Baby Home in Dublin, and adopted at two and half months old, and Paul Redmond, who was born in the Castlepollard Mother and Baby Home and adopted at just over two weeks old.
The meeting was described as “polite and cordial.”
The homes for unwed mothers operated in Ireland during the 20th century. While it is unclear just exactly how many women lived in these homes, the estimates range between 35,000 and 100,000 women.
Children born in the homes were sometimes placed for adoption without their mother’s consent, or even sold, according to reports. These women were allegedly told that it would be sinful if they were to ever seek out their children.
In 2015, the Irish government launched a commission into the Mother and Baby Homes after reports that an unrecorded mass grave containing the bodies of several hundred infants was discovered outside of the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, County Galway, the year before. The commission is due to report its findings next year. The local archbishop welcomed the investigation, saying he was “greatly shocked” and “horrified and saddened” by reports of mistreatment.
Malone requested that Pope Francis state that mothers from the homes whose babies were taken from them had done “nothing wrong,” and asked for the pope to call for reunions between mothers and children who had born in the homes, not only in Ireland, but in similar homes in other countries.
During Mass on Sunday, Pope Francis clarified that it was not a sin for a woman whose child was taken away from her to search for her baby.
“We ask forgiveness for the children who were taken away from their mothers, and for all the times when the single mothers that tried to look for their children that had been taken from them, or to the children who had been taken away from their mothers, were told that it was a mortal sin,” said Francis.
He closed the prayer by asking the Lord to “maintain and increase this state of shame and compulsion, and give us the strength to work so that it never happen again and that justice may be done. Amen."
Both Redmond and Malone expressed positive sentiment following their meeting with the pope. Redmond said that he feels “hopeful there will be more movement from the Church” on this issue, and that he thought Pope Francis was “genuinely shocked” to learn about what happened in the homes.
The pope “lifted his hands to his head in shock,” said Redmond.
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Malone said that the meeting was “very powerful” and that Pope Francis was attentive and had a “genuine interest” in what had happened.