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Earlier this year, I invited the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI) to conduct a Review of Safeguarding Practice in the Diocese of Achonry. The Review is published today, December 10, 2013. The Review is both comprehensive and independent. It involved a full and detailed audit of the current structures and policies in place to ensure the safety of children in all church activities in the parishes and the diocese. Case files were examined and interviews were conducted with key safeguarding personnel.
My first thoughts on the publication of the Review are for those who suffered abuse, and especially within the Diocese of Achonry. The abuse of children causes incalculable damage and deep and lasting suffering to the most innocent of lives and to their loved ones. It is entirely reprehensible, a serious crime and a grave sin. It is all the more grievous when the perpetrator is a person in a position of trust, such as a priest, who is called to be a minister of the Good News of love, compassion and justice.
Today again I want to say to any person who has suffered this terrible crime, that with deepest sorrow and regret, I apologize. I am at the same time deeply aware of how inadequate such sorrow and apology are in face of the pain and suffering experienced. And I wish to state that I am ready to receive and listen to any person who has suffered abuse or family member, and that this diocese is committed to offering support and help. And I further encourage anyone who has suffered this terrible injustice to report the matter to the Health Service Executive and the Gardai.
I welcome the Review Report published today on the current situation regarding safeguarding in the diocese. I want to thank NBSCCCI for conducting the review. I am greatly encouraged by the fact that the report clearly shows that the structures and practices in effect in the Diocese of Achonry today are in keeping with current best practice standards as laid down by the civil authorities in this country and by the National Board itself.
This diocese endeavours to guarantee that it is safe for children to be involved in all Church activities. We are intent on maintaining and continually reviewing our practices and structures so as to ensure the absolute priority of safety for all children. In this regard, the recommendations in the report are most welcome and will now guide the work of the safeguarding committee in the immediate future. Vigilance will be maintained as an absolute priority in this critical area. That is our assurance to all parents and children.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many people at diocesan and parish level who have been actively involved in the development and establishment of what we can now say are robust safeguarding structures. I want to thank the priests and religious of the diocese, the Diocesan Safeguarding Committee, the parish representatives, and the various volunteers who have embraced the task of making our diocese safe for children with such enthusiasm and hard work over the past number of years. We have worked together well and will, please God, continue to do so.
Furthermore, I would like to thank the Health Service Executive and the An Garda Síochána who along with the National Board and its officers have been our constant support in the diocese in this area and the development of our policies and structures.
Finally, I invite the people of the diocese to take the time to read this report and to reflect on its findings as we all continue together to work to ensure that we truly are the church of Jesus Christ in Achonry.