Read the full text of the pastoral reflection issued by the Irish Bishops marking the 1st anniversary of the Papal Pastoral Letter to Irish Catholics.

1st Anniversary of Papal Pastoral Letter to Irish Church

Click on links to download full text of

Towards Healing and Renewal

Pastoral Letter of Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland

To mark the first anniversary this weekend of the Pastoral Letter of Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland, the Irish Bishops Conference have published Towards Healing and Renewal.

Towards Healing and Renewal outlines various steps taken by the Church in regard to the survivors of abuse and their representatives. The document also mentions ways in which parishes can play their part in assisting the process of healing for survivors of abuse. It goes on to mention the launch of Catholic Counselling and Support Services called Towards Healing. This new service will continue and extend the work previously done by Faoiseamh (see below for more details).

Kildare & Leighlin

In his Pastoral Letter, Pope Benedict called for “a new vision [to] inspire present and future generations to treasure our common faith.”

Our diocese has taken up this call in various ways – including our series of meetings and discussions about

Mgsr Brendan Byrne, our diocesan administrator, recently relayed, on behalf of the diocese, what emerged from those discussions to Cardinal O’Malley as part of the ‘Visitation’ instigated by the Holy Father.

The discussion about a ‘new vision’ is on-going.  This is exemplified in the upcoming round of meetings about the possible grouping of parishes under the title – Sharing the Lord’s Mission.

Statement by Cardinal Brady

  • Towards Healing and Renewal outlines initiatives to enhance the personal, pastoral, spiritual and practical support available to survivors of abuse.
  • €10m co-funding over the next five years for Towards Healing, the expanded counselling service for survivors.
  • Meetings and dialogue between bishops and survivors of abuse to continue.
  • Pope Benedict’s 2010 pastoral letter prompts the reflections of over 3,000 people on renewal in the Church in Ireland .

Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, has encouraged everyone to read this short pastoral response to key issues raised by the Pope’s letter of March 2010.

Cardinal Brady said

“Towards Healing and Renewal – which has been published to mark the first anniversary of Pope Benedict’s Pastoral Letter – 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. I urge everyone to read Towards Healing and Renewal.

“The publication today of Towards Healing and Renewal, along with our five-year undertaking to continue funding of the new and expanded Church counselling 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.”

“As a result of the grievous wrong of abuse, for many survivors their faith in God and the Church has been profoundly damaged. Many have expressed a hope that this damage can be addressed. In Towards Healing and Renewal we commit trained pastoral personnel to this delicate challenge of healing and renewal.”

“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 counselling service for survivors of abuse. Towards Healing is a free, confidential helpline and counselling referral service and it continues the important work of Faoiseamh. It provides survivors with a professional and caring environment along with a wide range of support services.

“For Christians, prayer is an essential part of the journey to healing and renewal. 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. Towards Healing and Renewal also refers to the vital role of parishes in assisting the process of healing for survivors of abuse.”

Cardinal Brady concluded,

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

Towards Healing, the Catholic counselling support service

  • Towards Healing is a free, confidential helpline and counselling referral service, which is a Catholic Church response to abuse by clergy and religious.
  • The service was originally provided through an organisation known as Faoiseamh, established by Conference of Religious of Ireland in 1997 and also supported by dioceses over the years.   Faoiseamh solely provided a counselling service.
  • On average Faoiseamh provided 20,000 counselling sessions a year. Between 1997 and 2010 Faoiseamh provided face to face counselling to over 4,000 individuals and helpline support to over 15,000 survivors of abuse by clergy.
  • Towards Healing meets the needs of survivors in a more comprehensive manner through group work, practical workshops and a bridging service to link clients of Towards Healing with other statutory and non-statutory services relevant to the needs of the client, including: psychiatry, addiction services, services for the homeless and general medical, dental and welfare services. As before, the service is entirely confidential.
  • €20m has been spent on the confidential helpline and counselling referral service to date and a further €10m is available to support the new Towards Healing service over the next five years. The €10m contribution will be divided equally between dioceses and religious orders.
  • The Towards Healing service has a new board and structure, and it commenced its operation on 1 February 2011. Towards Healing will operate to best practice under the supervision of its clinical director, Dr Melissa Dermody.
  • When people initially make contact with the Towards Healing helpline they will speak to a trained telephone counsellor. A decision will then be made involving the counsellor and the client as to whether to proceed to face to face counselling. The new service will also provide a bridge to other services if required.
  • The Towards Healing service can also provide assistance to family members of survivors. This will be considered, if requested, on a case by case basis.

Opening Hours and Contact Details

The normal opening hours for the Towards Healing service are: Mondays and Wednesdays, 11am to 8pm and on Fridays 11am to 4pm.

Its free phone helpline numbers are: from the Republic of Ireland 1800 303416; from Northern Ireland and Britain 0800 0963315.

Introduction to ‘Towards Healing and Renewal’

Click on link to download full text of Towards Healing and Renewal

The abuse of children by some priests and religious was an appalling wrong. The inadequate response by some Church leaders has left a deep wound that may never be fully healed.

No apology, no gesture of repentance or sorrow can ever make up for the hurt that has been caused to those abused and to their families: they have been grievously harmed and let down by people who professed the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are deeply ashamed of this and we are profoundly sorry for any failures on our part.

Today we wish to give expression to that sorrow by expressing our commitment to existing initiatives as well as to a number of new initiatives. Our hope is that these initiatives will enhance the personal, pastoral, spiritual and practical support available to survivors of child physical and sexual abuse by some priests and religious in the Catholic Church in Ireland.

In the words of Pope Benedict XVI in his Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, ‘No one imagines that this painful situation will be resolved swiftly’. What is set out here today represents only part of a wider response and a longer journey to be undertaken by the Church in helping to bring healing and peace to survivors of abuse. Part of that journey is the challenge of restoring confidence and hope to those many young people, parents, parishioners, priests and religious, who feel angry, let down or despondent because children have been abused in the care of their Church and because so many in leadership failed to give priority to the love and care of children in their response to such heinous crimes.

It is our hope that the initiatives we are announcing today will go at least some way to rebuilding that trust and to restoring hope. The steps we are taking have been shaped in large part by our conversations as individuals and groups of bishops with survivors of abuse by clergy in the Catholic Church in Ireland. They involve a commitment to transparency and to continuing to implement best practice in safeguarding children into the future. They include a commitment to continue to listen and respond and to make available a wider range of spiritual and liturgical resources to assist in healing.

These commitments form part of a wider effort being made at diocesan and parish level to ensure best practice in child safeguarding and to bring about healing for those who have been abused. They complement the extensive work already being undertaken by the Conference of Religious of Ireland, the Irish Missionary Union and individual religious congregations in the provision of training, counselling and child safeguarding services as well as spiritual support for those who have been abused. Taken together with this wider effort of the Catholic community at every level, our hope is that the initiatives outlined today will constitute further important and helpful steps on the journey to healing and renewal signposted to us by survivors of abuse. It is a journey to which we are wholeheartedly committed.

The steps that will be taken are noted in the following pages….