The Pope’s brief journey to Ireland can be summed up as a twofold second: his second time participating in a World Meeting of Families — as he had done in Philadelphia in 2015 — and a second to his fondly recalled three-month stay in Ireland in 1980 — when he had come to practice English. The Pope himself described it this way as he greeted the journalists who, as usual, accompanied him on the flight to Dublin Saturday morning, 25 August. One could also add that after John Paul ii’s visit in 1979, it is Ireland’s second time to welcome a Pope.
Thus the family was at the heart of the papal visit, an event that Francis had initially wished to describe not only in the traditional sense, but with a broader and more incisive gaze, in his speech to authorities, civil society and the diplomatic corps. The Pope does not overlook the daily difficulties of the family, which he defined as “the glue of society”, in the face of “racial and ethnic hatred”, of conflicts and injustices, and of the “growing divide between rich and poor”, but also a model in political and social life, to recover “the sense of being a true family of peoples”.
Thus Francis celebrated the 20-year anniversary of peace following the Good Friday Agreement and, in the presence of a delegation from Northern Ireland, expressed the hope that the process which began then can bring about “a future of harmony, reconciliation and mutual trust”. But a truly inclusive society requires “constant conversion”. The materialistic culture in fact, cultivates indifference toward the poor and the most defenceless, “including the unborn, deprived of the very right to life”, and toward the “massive refugee crisis”, which must be addressed “beyond short-term political decisions”, the Pope stressed for the umpteenth time.
In this context Francis turned to the “grave scandal” of the abuse of minors committed by “members of the Church charged with responsibility for their protection and education”. A scandal which came to light nearly 20 years ago and has shaken the Church in many countries, as it has done painfully and shamefully in Ireland. Well aware of this “failure of ecclesiastical authorities” with regard to such “repellent crimes”, the Pontiff — recalling the “frank and decisive intervention” of his predecessor Benedict xvi — once again emphasized “pain and shame”. Francis then called for “commitment”, indeed “an even greater commitment” — which he had personally called for in the Letter he had written to the entire People of God — to eliminate “this scourge in the Church”: a commitment to be assumed “at any cost, moral and of suffering”.
As the Prime Minister had just recalled in his greeting, the Pontiff then noted the role of the “Church in Ireland, past and present”, in favour of children. “The gravity of the abuse scandals, which have cast light on the failings of many”, Pope Bergoglio added, “will serve to emphasize the importance of the protection of minors and vulnerable adults on the part of society as a whole”. He also asked for prayers that Ireland, in the current context of manifold vociferation, not forget the vitality of the Christian message which has supported the country for many centuries.
St. Peter’s Square
Feb. 20, 2019
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