Irish Bishops Reiterate Commitment to Safeguard Children

Mark 1-Year Anniversary of Papal Letter on Abuse Crisis

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MAYNOOTH, Ireland, MARCH 21, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The bishops of Ireland are reiterating their commitment to ensure the safety of all children and protect them from all forms of abuse in a "short, but very important" pastoral letter.

On Saturday, the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference published a document outlining various initiatives to provide a pastoral response to the abuses. The document, titled "Towards Healing and Renewal" marks the first anniversary of the publication of a Pastoral Letter of Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland.

Cardinal Seán Brady, archbishop of Armagh, noted that this publication is "a short but very important pastoral document": "It represents part of a wider response and longer journey by the Church in offering its support to survivors of abuse on their journey to healing and peace, and in committing itself to renewal."

The letter reveals that dioceses and religious orders in Ireland are committing another €10 million ($14 million) to support a counseling service for survivors of abuse by clergy. The free, confidential helpline and counseling referral service -- named "Towards Healing" -- is just one part of the Church's response to abuses by religious.

The document also focuses on priorities such as prayer for the abuse survivors, listening "with care and sensitivity," giving spiritual support to victims, implementing policies to ensure a safer future for children in the Church, and the review of dioceses and religious congregations by the National Board for Safeguarding Children.

The cardinal affirmed, "The publication today of 'Towards Healing and Renewal,' along with our five-year undertaking to continue funding of the new and expanded Church counseling service for survivors of abuse, are both tangible signs of our commitment to work with all people of goodwill to ensure, as best we can, that every child on this island is properly cared for and kept safe from all forms of abuse and harm."

He continued: "Pastoral outreach to survivors is a necessary Church response to abuse, but so too is the offer of professional assistance to those in need.

"Last month the Irish bishops' conference, the Conference of Religious of Ireland, and the Irish Missionary Union launched an expanded counseling service for survivors of abuse."

The prelate added that the "Towards Healing" hotline "provides survivors with a professional and caring environment along with a wide range of support services."

The service was revamped last month with a new board and structure in order to better meet the needs of abuse survivors and their families.

Prayer and penance

"For Christians, prayer is an essential part of the journey to healing and renewal," Cardinal Brady affirmed. "We, as bishops, renew our commitment to the tradition of Friday penance with a particular emphasis on remembering the suffering of those who have been abused."

He also underlined "the vital role of parishes in assisting the process of healing for survivors of abuse."

"As a result of the grievous wrong of abuse, for many survivors their faith in God and the Church has been profoundly damaged," the cardinal acknowledged. "Many have expressed a hope that this damage can be addressed."

He noted that "in Towards Healing and Renewal we commit trained pastoral personnel to this delicate challenge of healing and renewal."

The prelate affirmed: "A colossal breach of trust occurs when a child is abused. If the abuser is a priest or religious then an even greater betrayal has been perpetrated."

"The mismanagement of abuse allegations by Church authorities compounded this damage," he observed.

"As we continue on our journey of renewal, the Church resolves to repair the breach of trust which has taken place," Cardinal Brady concluded. "We ask humbly that we be given this opportunity."

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On the Net:

Towards Healing and Renewal: www.catholicbishops.ie/2011/03/19/healing-renewal-2/