By Robin Gomes
Before flying back to Rome from the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, in Ireland, Pope Francis met members of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ICBC) in the Convent of the Dominican Sisters.
Concern for poor
By way of his parting words the Pope encouraged the bishops’ in their efforts, in these challenging times, to persevere in their ministry as heralds of the Gospel and shepherds of Christ’s flock. He thanked them for their concern for the poor, the excluded and the needy as evident in their recently pastoral letter on the homeless and on substance abuse. He also thanked them for the support they give their priests whose hurt and discouragement in the face of recent scandals is often ignored or underestimated
Protecting the vulnerable
The Holy Father then focused his attention on the “Church’s need to acknowledge and remedy, with evangelical honesty and courage, past failures with regard to the protection of children and vulnerable adults.”
He noted that the bishops have “resolutely moved forward, not only by undertaking paths of purification and reconciliation with victims of abuse, but also, with the help of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Church in Ireland, by establishing a stringent set of norms aimed at ensuring the safety of young persons.”
“In these years,” the Pope said, “all of us have had our eyes opened to the gravity and extent of sexual abuse in various social settings.” “In Ireland, as elsewhere, the honesty and integrity with which the Church chooses to confront this painful chapter of her history can offer an example and a warning to society as a whole,” the Pope said.
Pope Francis then spoke about the importance of transmitting the faith in its integrity and beauty in the context of Ireland’s rapidly evolving society. The Pope said, the World Meeting of Families has given great hope and encouragement that families are growing more and more conscious of their own irreplaceable role in passing on the faith.
Catholic schools and programmes of religious instruction also play an indispensable role in creating a culture of faith and a sense of missionary discipleship. Genuine religious formation, the Holy Father pointed out, needs joyful teachers who can shape not only minds but also hearts in the love of Christ and in the practice of prayer.
The Pope commended the strong faith of the Irish people in withstanding the upheavals of recent years and offering an opportunity for an interior renewal of the Church. In conclusion, the Holy Father wished that the bishops, with humility and trust in God’s grace, be able to “discern and set out on new paths for these new times”.