WATCH: Bishop of Limerick - 'Everyone in church bears shame' of its 'dark' history

Fintan Walsh

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Fintan Walsh

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Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy joined by Fr John Keating, PP Killeedy on their way to the Mass Rock this Wednesday Picture: Keith Wiseman

Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy joined by Fr John Keating, PP Killeedy on their way to the Mass Rock this Wednesday Picture: Keith Wiseman

THE BISHOP of Limerick has said that “everyone in the Church bears the shame” of its “dark” history.

Delivering his homily at the Feast of the Assumption of Mary at the Mass Rock, Killeedy this Wednesday morning, Bishop Brendan Leahy said that next week’s visit by Pope Francis marks a “crossroads moment” for the church to “acknowledge our past, good and bad”.

He said that the Church needs to prepare for the papal visit with a “desire to want to repair” the Church by “seeking forgiveness for the sins of the past”.

He added that there is a need to pray for those who have been wounded by the Church and a need “to keep listening and to learn from them how to clarify and repair our Church”.

In his special address, the Bishop said there is a need to acknowledge the “dark aspects of the Church’s history” that have come to light in recent decades. 

“A clericalism that ended up confusing power and ministry, the sexual abuse of minors by clergy and religious that did untold life-long damage to victims, the violent and repressive treatment by church representatives of young people sent to the State’s reformatory institutions, the dark experience of vulnerable women in places meant to be residences of refuge.

“Sadly, as has been highlighted, cover-up, wilful or otherwise, and mismanagement compounded the damage, adding to our shame,” he said.

Bishop Leahy added this Wednesday morning: “We know that not every bishop or priest or sister or brother or lay person engaged in church circles was bad. And we know that not everyone was good. Those of us of a certain age, however, know many, many who were very kind, caring and helpful. But to acknowledge with gratitude the good can never eclipse recognition of sin, criminality and evil.

“In some way, everyone in the church bears the shame of these darks aspects of our history. Few of us can throw stones as if we ourselves were not somehow associated.”

“The group think that says to be Catholic is out of date seems sometimes overwhelming,” he said, adding that it would be a shame to lose the memory of Christian heritage.

“The Church of tomorrow will be very different. To be Catholic isn’t simply about Mass on Sunday or certain moral rules or pious practices.

“Unfortunately, too often, and perhaps we ourselves are partly to blame, our Catholic faith has been reduced to this caricature.  Catholic faith is something much more alive and dynamic.”

Addressing younger people, Bishop Leahy said that their difficulty with finding a connection with the Church “isn’t their fault”.

We need young people to help Church-attending members to find the way forward on how to reconnect youth cultures and Church.  Might this visit of Pope Francis be a moment when young people might look again at what the Church really has to offer? We need you because you are part of our access to what God is saying to the Church today. We need you to help us find the ways towards the future that God has marked out for us all.”

Ahead of next week’s visit by Pope Francis, the Limerick Diocese will host a major street party to celebrate the launch of the World Meeting of Families in Ireland.

Organisers of the “street party” are hoping the buzz surrounding the All-Ireland final will continue to roll on.

To mark the launch of Pope Francis’ visit to Ireland, the Limerick Diocesan office will kick off the outdoor festivities next Tuesday at St John’s Square, starting at 3.30pm.

The special event will be launched by Olive Foley, the wife of the late Anthony Foley, and founder of the Children’s Grief Centre, Sr Helen Culhane.

St John’s Square will be pedestrianised for the event, which will have food-stalls, face-painting, music and magic shows.

The street feast will be followed by an evening prayer service at St Johns Cathedral, led by Bishop Brendan Leahy and Church of Ireland Bishop of Killaloe, Kenneth Kearon.

Limerick Diocesan World Meeting of Families delegate, Emer Williams said it is going to be a time “we are never going to forget in Limerick”.

“Tens of thousands will head there this weekend for the All-Ireland Final and I can only imagine what the atmosphere is going to be like next week here. Win or lose, there’ll be a carnival atmosphere in Limerick.

“We’ll keep that going on Tuesday with our Street Party. There’s a fantastic fun afternoon planned for John’s Square. It’s all geared towards the family and all, of course, free. Then we move across the St. John’s Cathedral where there will still be a celebratory tone, a spiritual celebration,” she said. 

The Limerick Diocese is one of only a handful of dioceses across the country that will have a stand at the RDS international exhibition as it showcases its pastoral activity. 

Bishop Leahy will chair a session, entitled Handing on the Faith in the Home Today on Wednesday. Caherdavin native Noirin Lynch will chair a panel on Wendnesday also, on Christian families from troubled parts of the world.