President tells Pope of Irish anger at abuse ‘impunity’

President tells Pope Irish anger abuse impunity
25/08/2018 Visit of Pope Francis to Ireland. Pope Francis, Head of the Roman Catholic Church, is greeted at Dublin Airport as he arrives for the first day of his visit to Ireland. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/

President Michael D Higgins raised with Pope Francis the issue of abuse within the Catholic church during their private meeting at Áras an Uachtaráin.

He told Pope Francis of the anger felt by Irish citizens that those who should have reported abuse to the authorities, and, in some cases those who should themselves have been reported, had never been punished.

A spokesman for President Higgins said President Higgins welcomed His Holiness to Ireland on behalf of the Irish people. This was the third meeting between the two Heads of State.

The spokesman said: “President Higgins raised with His Holiness the immense suffering and hurt caused by child sex abuse perpetrated by some within the Catholic Church.

“He spoke of the anger which had been conveyed to him at what was perceived to be the impunity enjoyed by those who had the responsibility of bringing such abuses for action by the appropriate authorities and have not done so.

“The President welcomed the honest and forthright language that His Holiness used when addressing the issue in his recent Letter to the People of God. He conveyed to Pope Francis the widely held view that all would benefit from a set of actions that gave the necessary assurances to all citizens past, present and future, of all faiths and none.

Both Heads of State said they agreed on the importance of protecting vulnerable communities and individuals, at home and abroad.

President Higgins spoke to Pope Francis on the issues of homelessness, health, education and nutrition. They both emphasised the importance of measures to prevent and redress all forms of abuse of privilege or power.

President Higgins spoke to His Holiness of how the achievement of an equality of rights defined a Republic, and of how acts of exclusion, including those based on gender and sexual orientation, had caused, and were still causing, great suffering. The Pope visited the Áras directly after arriving at Dublin airport.

The Vatican delegation included Eamon Martin, the archbishop of Armagh, and Diarmuid Martin, archbishop of Dublin, who was instrumental in bringing the Pope to Ireland. After the formal greetings, the president, his wife and the Pope continued on to the residence’s state reception room, where the pontiff signed the visitor book. The Pope and the President then walked to the rear garden where the Pope scattered soil with a shovel in a tree-planting ceremony.

The gesture symbolised the Laudato Tree Project, a UN-backed initiative, supported byIreland, to plant a million trees in drought-hit regions south of the Sahara.

The Pope planted an Irish oak of the same type that Pope John Paul II placed in the Aras grounds during the last papal visit in 1979. The tree-planting ceremony was attended by three generations of a Syrian family seeking asylum in Ireland, including three children aged between one and six.

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