The leader of the Catholic Chuch in Ireland, Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin, asked Pope Francis to pray for Ireland in these “politically uncertain and delicate” times during an audience, which was also granted to the Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown on Friday.
The President of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, which this week has been undertaking an apostolic visit to the Pope, addressed a range of issues, including the collapse of the Stormont Executive, the impending Brexit from the European Union and the church’s efforts to address child abuse.
“Things are politically uncertain and delicate these days in Northern Ireland where the Stormont government has collapsed and following the United Kingdom’s referendum decision to leave the European Union,” said Archbishop Martin.
“Please pray for us, because we need everyone, including our Church, civic and political leaders, to build bridges of friendship and reconciliation, rather than put up barriers of division and recrimination.”
The Derry prelate also referred to the publication of Anthony Hart’s Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) report.
He said much work has been done to address the legacy issues of abuse since the Bishops’ last visit over ten years ago but more needs to be done.
“Since then we have been making determined efforts to safeguard children and vulnerable persons from abuse.
“I assure you that it remains a priority of the Church in Ireland to acknowledge and learn from the past, and persevere in our efforts to bring healing to all those affected by the sinful and criminal acts of abuse.
“Holy Father, your personal outreach to survivors of abuse is an inspiration for us as we continue to travel the path of penitence, reparation, healing and renewal.
“The publication this morning in Belfast of Sir Anthony Hart’s Report into Historical Institutional Abuse in Northern Ireland reminds us that much work remains to be undertaken in this regard.”
Archbishop Martin told Pope Francis the church has to give people hope and direction.
“We realise that the future of the Catholic Church in Ireland is likely to be very unlike our past or even the present.
“We know that we need to find new ways of ensuring that the voice of faith is heard, because many people in Ireland yearn for a reason to hope.
“There is so much uncertainty around us - including homelessness, economic hardship, violence on the streets, a lack of purpose in the lives of many of our gifted young people, problems with mental health and the awful spectre of suicide.
“The Joy of the Gospel needs to be heard today in Ireland, more than ever.”