Archbishop Eamon Martin has said the victims and survivors of abuse was uppermost in his thoughts as he travelled to the Vatican to attend a special meeting with Pope Francis on the protection of minors.
The Primate of All-Ireland this week offered a message to those who have suffered abuse prior to his departure for Rome.
The Derry native will join over 100 other senior Catholic bishops from around the world at the summit, which Pope Francis has organised to address clerical abuse revelations which have shaken the church and its followers over across the globe.
The four days meeting began yesterday (Thursday) and will continue over the weekend. Archbishop Martin, who is President of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, has engaged in face-to-face consultations and discussions with survivors of abuse across the four provinces of Ireland as part of his preparation for the summit. He has also received feedback in writing from survivors and from the lay faithful.
In a direct message to the survivors, he stated: “In recent weeks I have met with some of you and heard about how you were hurt and violated, and about how your young lives were turned into a nightmare by people who betrayed the sacred trust that you and your families had placed in them. I am truly sorry for what was done to you.
“I’ve learned also about how abuse devastated your confidence in yourself and others, your relationships, your family and in some cases your spiritual, emotional, mental and physical well-being. Abuse broke your heart and spirit and sometimes you couldn’t tell anyone for years. And then - when all you wanted was to be believed and supported by the church and your abuser to be stopped from harming others - there were too many failures to listen, to understand and to do what was right and just. I am truly sorry for these failures.
“No wonder many of you find it difficult to forgive. You are still shocked by every new revelation which reopens your wounds and makes you feel the church still hasn’t learned or fully understood.”
The archbishop said he had heard clearly the calls for atonement, public apology, complete transparency and prompt cooperation with police and statutory authorities.
“You deserve to be believed, loved and cherished - not isolated or seen as a threat. I know that nothing I say can undo the terrible wrong you have endured, but I once more commit to doing all I can to ensure that church activities are as safe as possible for children and vulnerable people. You will always remain in my thoughts and prayers.”