Parishioners from across the diocese gathered at two venues on Thursday last to discuss the recent Letter from Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland. Baroness Nuala O Loan was guest speaker.

Parishioners from across the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin gathered at two venues on Thursday last (Mar 25th ) to discuss the recent Papal Letter from Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland. Baroness Nuala O Loan, former ombudsman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland, was the guest speaker.

Click here to download – Nuala O’Loan’s Address

Amongst the parishioners and priests who attended the meetings at both Mt St Annes, Portarlington and Carlow Cathedral Parish Centre, there was discussion on the Vatican and its role in the ongoing scandal of child abuse, of parishes that had not advertised the meetings sufficiently, criticism too of the cover up mentality that, of itself, caused further hurt and pain and calls for further meetings of the same kind, possibly in every parish. People spoke of their own hurt and lack of trust, of their disappointment with some aspects of the Churchs handling of child abuse and of the need to find ways to encourage and help young people in their faith. A number of speakers congratulated Bishop Jim Moriarty on the position he adopted when offering his resignation after the publication of the Murphy report.

Baroness O Loan spoke of this dark time and shared her thoughts and belief that

walking away from our church is not an option, and that working to reform it is going to be a long and hard road, but it is one which we must and can walk. We will walk it in the footsteps of Jesus who died so terribly and in whose pain and despair we find hope and resurrection.

She spoke about the most important thing for her about being a Catholic is

“that I am called to holiness, to a relationship with God which is to me eternally unfathomable, and yet eternally real. Each of is called to a personal relationship with God. It is not easy”.

Referring to sharing the mission Baroness O Loan highlighted the different skills and abilities; different roles; different experiences, that people must bring to the mission bring experience of being parents, of the care of vulnerable people, experience of listening and responding in a variety of situations, of dealing with the media, of strategic management, of financial systems, of property management.

Baroness O Loan concluded her presentation saying

At this time in our Church, as at so many times in each of our lives, there will be times when we are the consoler, and times when we need to be consoled, times when we rely on others to walk with us sustaining us in our difficulties and times when we must offer that same comfort to others, but above all this, and around all this and in all this is the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord . That love must be the bedrock of our future as a Church.

Parishioners were very positive in their response to Baroness OLoans presentation. Their reactions dwelt mostly on her emphasis on the need for dialogue and openness, accountability and transparency at parish and diocesan level. There was a compelling sense of faith among the people present. Each person showed a faith in their relationship with Jesus. While people are hurt and angry with the church they are searching for ways forward. The commitment of those present while suffering is a source of great hope that people took away with them. Many people also expressed a wish that the young people would not lose their faith over what has happened. It will be important that we listen to them and give them hope for the future of their faith.

Julie Kavanagh of the diocesan faith development services team presented a summary of the Papal Letter pointing out what Pope Benedict wrotes to the victims of abuse and their families:

You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry.

The Pope also expressed deep dismay at the sinful and criminal acts and the way the Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them. Commenting on the letter Ms Kavanagh said: “What is important to remember in looking at this letter is that it is neither a first word nor a final word it is a word coming to us in the context of the painful journey we have all been making in the Church in Ireland. And each of us on that painful journey comes to this letter with different experiences, with different perspectives, with different expectations”. Noting how it was addressed, in specific places, to a number of different groups within the Catholic Church she said the Pope has made the task of renewal a challenge for Irish Catholics. In confronting the present crisis he says that measures to deal justly with individual crimes are essential, yet on their own they are not enough A new vision is needed to inspire future generations to treasure the gift of our faith.

Bishop Jim Moriarty also spoke at both meetings about sharing the mission, encouraging people to read the Popes letter for themselves and to gather again, maybe in smaller areas, to continue the dialogue begun and further advance the task of healing and renewal together.

Fr. Mchel Murphy gave a brief presentation of the dioceses present position on policies and procedures regarding safeguarding children highlighting in particular that 232 people (incl 78 priests) across the diocese have completed the Keeping Safe Children First training programme. Bryan OReilly, a school principal from Newbridge, Co. Kildare chaired both meetings.