Matt Carthy MEP was among those in attendance for the address of Pope Francis in St. Patrick’s Hall in Dublin Castle on Saturday last. He was part of a Sinn Féin delegation that also included Conor Murphy MLA, Martina Anderson MEP and the Mayor of Belfast Deirdre Hargey.
Speaking after the event, Matt Carthy said:
“I was pleased to attend Saturday’s address by Pope Francis. I recognise the importance attached to the visit by Irish Catholics, both those of deep faith but also those who consider their attachment to the church to be cultural as much as religious. It was clear throughout Pope Francis’ visit to Ireland that he is held in high regard and affection by Irish people. It was therefore appropriate that he was afforded a warm official welcome.
“It was for this reason that Sinn Féin was represented at each public event over the course of the weekend addressed by Pope Francis.
“Our party was also represented at the Stand for Truth solidarity vigil at the Garden of Remembrance on Sunday. It was always going to be the case that Pope Francis’ visit would be seen as an opportunity to address the issue of clerical child abuse, and also the church’s treatment of women, over the decades.
“We must acknowledge that many Irish people have been deeply hurt by the abuses of the church – particularly survivors of child sexual abuse as well as survivors of industrial schools, mother and baby homes and Magdalene laundries. This was undoubtedly a very difficult weekend for them. I feel that it was only right that their experiences were listened to and acknowledged throughout the period that the pope was in Ireland.
“We have all noted the strong, and new, language that Pope Francis used in his speeches particularly at the opening of the Phoenix Park mass and also his engagement with survivors. His request for forgiveness on the part of the church will be welcomed in several quarters.
“These sentiments must now be followed up by action.
“As a first step the Vatican must move to release all files related to church abuses in Ireland and to commit to full redress in relation to cases across the island. The church must also commit to putting in place the proper standards and procedures globally if they are to truly have learned the lessons from Ireland.
“Ireland is a different place, arguably unrecognisable, from that which Pope Francis’ predecessor, John Paul II visited in 1979. The dominance of the Catholic Church is no more. That is a good thing. But the church still plays an important, and often extremely positive, role in community life and in providing a voice for the marginalised in our society. The ability of the church to play this positive role will be enhanced when the dark clouds of the past are effectively addressed.
“We should recognise that among those who attended the papal mass on Sunday were devout Catholics who were as distressed and angered by revelations of church abuse as anybody else.
“We must also remember that many of the shameful acts by elements within the church occurred because successive Irish governments gave them free reign to do so. There are lessons for political parties that have been eager to outsource the provision of public services since the foundation of the state that they too must change tracks. Accountability is vital if we are to protect citizens and it must cross all spheres of power and influence; that includes government and state agencies as well as the Catholic Church.
“My hope is that, in time, the visit of Pope Francis will be seen as a definitive moment in time which sees church and state take on their respective roles separately but with mutual respect – and that the failures and hurt of the past will be addressed and we can confidently say that they will never occur again”.