In this week’s blog Fr Paddy calls us to remember, as we begin the season of Lent, that the message of Jesus Christ is a source of inspiration and hope.

Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist Papers.

This column appeared in the edition published 17th February 2010

This week, Irish Bishops meet Pope Benedict, to reflect and share the terrible truth that has been the details revealed in the Murphy and Ryan Reports. They also bring with them, letters written by victims and victim support groups. No doubt these letters communicate the huge burden and violation that visited innocent lives, now scarred forever. I hope that as the Pope soon responds to this crisis, the pain and burden felt by all victims and their families will be foremost to his mind.

I believe that before he listens to Bishops, Pope Benedict should have made the important gesture of listening to victims personally; they are real people and deserve our utmost respect. No letter from the Pope will in any way alleviate the constant burden and pain felt by those who were abused. I hope that in listening to the terrible truth contained within these reports, Pope Benedict will also not just apologize, but actively challenge and change an institutional Church that is so dysfunctional, starved of good leadership and struggling greatly to dialogue to the culture that is our present moment.

There is a real crisis at this time amongst the Irish Hierarchy. This needs to be addressed by Pope Benedict head on. How can the Irish Church move in any direction if its leaders are not communicating effectively together first. In responding to these recent horrific reports, all members of the Church must have a heartfelt desire for real change, where mission is more important than rank or office.

Today, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. This is a time when we prepare with great hope for new life and renewal offered to us in the suffering and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Perhaps this is an opportune time for our church to humbly and sincerely begin the necessary process of reconciliation with all her many members who are so disillusioned and hurt at this time.

Gestures of reconciliation must also contain real depth and not appear to be superficial. I have no doubt that there is a massive hunger for the spiritual in so many lives at this time. This is a time of burden felt greatly in so many places and in so many ways. Huge numbers of people continue to celebrate their faith publicly. In the same way, the message of Jesus Christ is a source of inspiration and hope particularly in the fragile and vulnerable moments in our lives.

Lent is an invitation to change and to grow. This is a time for our Church to be bold and courageous. A time to embrace where we find ourselves to be. A time surely for our bishops and priests to let go of the symbols and vestiges of office, as we focus wholeheartedly on a worthy mission to celebrate Gods love in our midst. A mission that calls us out of darkness and fear, to a place within ourselves that is at peace, fulfilled and reconciled. May our Bishops return home with a renewed sense of mission, active in a creative enthusiasm to bring many wounded within the Church to a place of true reconciliation.