Europe

Pope 'should meet Irish clerical sex abuse victims'

Pope Francis Image copyright EPA
Image caption Pope Francis will express "grave sorrow" about clerical sex abuse, says Archbishop Martin

The head of Ireland's Catholic Church has said he expects Pope Francis to meet victims of clerical sex abuse during his visit to Dublin next week.

In a wide-ranging BBC News NI interview at Armagh Cathedral, Archbishop Eamon Martin described clerical sex abuse as "sinful and criminal".

Pope Francis will arrive in Dublin on Saturday 25 August and attend the World Meeting of Families.

He will also travel to Knock Shrine in County Mayo as part of his tour.

Since the last papal visit in 1979 by Pope John Paul II, the Catholic Church in Ireland has been engulfed in scandal with the uncovering of widespread clerical sexual abuse of children and cover-ups.

Archbishop Martin said he expected Pope Francis to deal with the issue directly.

Image caption Archbishop Martin "would like to think" the Pope will meet clerical sex abuse victims

"I think he will reach out, he will try to express the grave sorrow of the Church," he said.

"But I think people want more than that.

"He will want to express the Church's commitment to ensure that if a member of your family is involved in any activity of the Church they are as safe there as they would be in your own home.

"They are as safe there as can possibly be."

On Monday, Pope Francis condemned the "atrocities" of child sex abuse and clerical cover-ups in a letter to the world's 1.2bn Roman Catholics.

Margaret McGuckin, from Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse (Savia), said the letter was "too little, too late".

"It won't wash with us, the damage has already been done," she said.

"If the Pope is anyway genuine about this statement, if he is sorry about these atrocities, let him agree to an inquiry in the north of Ireland."

'Address abuse issue'

Archbishop Martin said he would be "surprised" if the Pope did not meet victims of abuse during his 36-hour visit.

"I would like to think that the Pope will meet with survivors of abuse but will also address this issue in some way during his presence among us.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Pope's Irish visit could lead people to rekindle their faith, says Archbishop Martin

"I'm not sure what his words will be and I'm not sure that a simple apology is what survivors of abuse want.

"They themselves are on record in recent days as saying they want action.

"They say they want to know that the Church accepts that abuse within the Church was systemic, that it was facilitated and that this will happen no more."

The Archbishop added: "If he expresses an apology, it needs to be more than 'we're sorry'."

'Church repudiates homophobia'

Asked if same-sex couples would be welcome at the papal events in Ireland next week, Archbishop Martin said that the Catholic Church had a "very clear teaching" about marriage, family and sexuality.

Image caption Same-sex marriage will be discussed during the Pope's visit, according to Archbishop Martin

"At the same time, the Catholic Church welcomes and understands people where they are at - it repudiates homophobia," he added.

He said the Church would reject claims by critics who say that its teaching breeds homophobia.

Archbishop Martin added that it was "a very sensitive issue" and would be addressed at the World Meeting of Families.

There is speculation that Pope Francis may be considering a specific visit to Northern Ireland, perhaps as soon as next year.

Archbishop Martin said he hoped that would happen.

Image caption Any papal visit to Northern Ireland could include a stop at St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh

"I really did push hard to try to encourage the Holy See that the holy father would make a visit north of the border.

"I really feel that the time is right for it now and I think Pope Francis would love to come."

'Be open and listen'

So why not during next week's visit to Ireland?

"In some ways I now realise that a visit to Northern Ireland, particularly with our history and with all that we've been through, is going to require a dedicated time.

"Pope Francis, even though he's not coming to Northern Ireland on this occasion, I'm hoping that he might say something to us in our particular situation here in Northern Ireland about our peace and what we have done and maybe affirm us in the progress we have made."

Image caption The last papal visit to Ireland was by Pope John Paul II in 1979

Archbishop Martin said his life "changed" when, as an 18 year old, he saw Pope John Paul II in Drogheda in 1979.

"The following year I went off to study for the priesthood," he said.

"I would say to Catholics - be open, listen to what Pope Francis has to say.

"Perhaps this a moment to rekindle your own personal faith in Jesus Christ, our saviour."

Papal visit to Ireland: Itinerary highlights

Saturday 25 August

  • 08:15 - Departure by plane from Rome for Dublin
  • 10:30 - Arrival at Dublin Airport for official welcome
  • 10:45 - Transfer to Áras an Uachtaráin (Irish president's residence)
  • 11:15 - Welcome ceremony with President Michael D. Higgins
  • 12:10 - Arrival at Dublin Castle for meeting with authorities, civil society and diplomatic corps
  • 15:30 - Visit to St Mary's Pro-Cathedral
  • 16:30 - Private visit to the Capuchin Day Centre, a centre for homeless people
  • 19:45 - Preside at the Festival of Families at Croke Park stadium

Sunday, 26 August

  • 08:40 - Departure by plane for Knock
  • 09:45 - Arrival at Knock Shrine for visit to the Apparition Chapel and recitation of the Angelus
  • 11:15 - Departure by plane for Dublin
  • 12:30 - Lunch with the Papal Delegation
  • 15:00 - Closing Papal Mass of the World Meeting of Families in Phoenix Park followed by a meeting with the Irish bishops
  • 18:30 - Farewell ceremony at Dublin Airport
  • 18:45 - Departure by plane for Rome
  • 23:00 - Arrival in Rome