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Archbishop Eamon Martin Archbishop Eamon Martin 

Abp Martin: 'We must ensure children and their mothers feel wanted and loved'

Ireland’s Catholic leader, Archbishop Eamon Martin unreservedly apologizes to the survivors of Women and Baby homes in the country following a new report.

By Vatican News staff reporter

The Primate of All Ireland, and Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin has welcomed a report by an Irish Commission of Inquiry into Mother and Baby Homes in the country.

Report’s findings

The report released on Tuesday found that from the 1920’s to the 1990’s thousands of infants died in these homes mainly run by the Catholic Church.

It also found an “appalling” mortality rate as a result of harsh living conditions.

The report, which covered 18 homes where pregnant unmarried women were sent, revealed that 9,000 children died – a mortality rate of 15%.

Many children were also taken from their mothers and adopted both in Ireland and overseas.

Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin made a formal apology on behalf of the State to survivors in parliament on Wednesday for what he described as "a dark, difficult and shameful chapter of very recent Irish history."

Impact on survivors

In his statement, the Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin unreservedly apologized to the survivors and all those, he said, “who are personally impacted by the realities it uncovers.” 

He added, “I accept that the Church was clearly part of that culture in which people were frequently stigmatized, judged and rejected.”

“Although it may be distressing,” he said, “it is important that all of us spend time in the coming days reflecting on this Report which touches on the personal story and experience of many families in Ireland.”  Above all, the Archbishop stressed, “we must continue to find ways of reaching out to those whose personal testimonies are central to this Report.” 

Archbishop Martin went on to say, “The Commission’s Report helps to further open to the light what was for many years a hidden part of our shared history and it exposes the culture of isolation, secrecy and social ostracizing which faced ‘unmarried mothers’ and their children in this country.”

The Report highlighted that many are still learning about their personal stories and searching for family members. Addressing this point, Archbishop Martin said, “The rights of all survivors to access personal information about themselves should be fully respected and I again urge the State to ensure that any remaining obstacles to information and tracing should be overcome.”

He also appealed for people to come forward who have further information about burial places.

“All burial grounds should be identified and appropriately marked so that the deceased and their families will be recognized and never be forgotten.”

Lessons for future generations

This Report, the Archbishop said, “will hopefully speak not just to our past but will also have lessons for today and for future generations.”  He also underlined that “as Church, State and wider society we must ensure together that, in the Ireland of today, all children and their mothers feel wanted, welcomed and loved.”

This story has been updated

13 January 2021, 11:51