DUBLIN – Just three days before Pope Francis is due in Ireland, his top advisor said that the Catholic Church has been “deeply afflicted” by clerical sexual abuse scandals, that the Church’s “first responsibility” is closeness to victims, and that the pontiff will bring Ireland a message of “hope.”
“I believe that we have been, and continue to be, deeply afflicted by this phenomenon that’s had a devastating impact on the witness of the Church,” said Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State.
“The pope always has insisted and continues to insist on the fact that our first responsibility, our first commitment, is to be close to the victims, to help them in a way that allows them to ‘rebuild’ their lives,” he said.
Parolin spoke in an interview with Vatican News, an official news outlet of the Vatican.
“I believe that the Church in Ireland has recognized its failures, its errors, its sins, and at the same time also has adopted a series of measures that can prevent these atrocities from happening again, these horrors,” he said.
Despite the storm clouds gathering over this week’s World Meeting of Families in Dublin, set to be capped off by a papal visit this weekend, Parolin insisted that the pope’s presence will generate hope.
“I believe that the visit of the pope in Ireland will happen above all under the sign of hope, this capacity for hope, and above all of trust, precisely that trust that I call the liberating power, the transforming and saving power, of God, which is found in families,” he said.
“Thus it’s also a message of openness towards the future of this faith, which has always been a characteristic of Ireland and of the Irish population, which will find a way to be reborn in hearts and to bear the fruit of peace and happiness,” he said.
In terms of the broad theme of the World Meeting, which runs Wednesday through Friday, Parolin said it will present the “rich teaching of the Church on the theme of the family.”
Parolin said the event will “underline the essential role, the essential place, the family occupies in the Church and in society and to support the mission of the family as a reality of love, of faithfulness, and of support in its mission of transmitting and educating people in the faith.”
The World Meeting of Families opens today with a variety of panels and workshops. Wednesday’s opening keynote address was to have been delivered by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, who was forced to withdraw after facing accusations of having covered up abuse charges against clergy during his time as the bishop of Pittsburgh from 1998 to 2006.
Wuerl will be replaced by Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, Ireland.