The Derry-born leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland has issued an unreserved apology to all those who suffered abuse in Church-run institutions.
Archbishop Eamon Martin was speaking following the publication of a report which revealed that kids’ homes run by church and charities in Northern Ireland were the scene of widespread abuse and mistreatment of young residents.
The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) studied allegations of abuse in 22 homes - a number of them in Derry - and other residential institutions between 1922 to 1995.
The largest number of complaints received related to four Sisters of Nazareth homes - two of which were located in Derry at Termonbacca and Bishop Street.
It found nuns physically and emotionally abused children in their care.
The chair of the inquiry, Sir Anthony Hart, has recommended compensation, a memorial and a public apology to abuse survivors.
He said a tax-free lump sum payment should be made to all survivors, including in homes and institutions that were not covered by the inquiry. It’s understood the payments will range from £7,500 to £100,000.
Archbishop Martin, accepting the report’s findings, said victims of abuse had shown courage, dignity and perseverance in bringing to light a dark and disturbing chapter in the life of Church and society.
The report, he said, allowed victims’ voices to be heard and vindicated more widely “so that all of us can learn the truth, however unpalatable, about what happened in the past and redouble our efforts to ensure such awful things are prevented from occurring again”.
He added: “I know well that my words are inadequate in attempting to address the enormity of the harshness and brutality which many innocent children experienced. There is never an excuse for the abuse and ill treatment of children or any vulnerable person, in any setting. When the perpetrator is a priest or religious, it is also an appalling betrayal of a sacred trust. I am ashamed and I am truly sorry that such abuse occurred, and that in many cases children and young people felt deprived of love and were left with a deep and lasting suffering.
“It is totally understandable that those abused may find it hard to forgive or find reconciliation with the Church. But we in the Church must do everything we can to submit to the demands of justice and demonstrate that we are serious about making reparation for the sins and crimes of the past. I call on all those in positions of leadership within the Catholic dioceses and religious congregations concerned to engage in a constructive and urgent manner with the agencies to be established by the new Executive to take forward this Report’s recommendations. I commit to doing all that I can - and also to encouraging others throughout the Church - to support survivors of abuse today and into the future.”
In a statement, the Sisters of Nazareth apologised to anyone who had suffered abuse while in their care.
“It was always the desire of the order to provide a safe place for children and when we failed on any occasion, we want to express our deepest regret,” the order said.