Homily of Cardinal Marc Ouellet at Lough Derg
Dear brothers and sisters,
Pope Benedict XVI asked me, as His Legate to the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, that I would come to Lough Derg and ask God’s forgiveness for the times clerics have sexually abused children not only in Ireland but anywhere in the Church.
Lough Derg in Ireland is the symbol of conversion, penance and spiritual renewal. Many people come here to pray, to fast and to apologize for their sins. According to a long tradition, they follow the steps of Saint Patrick who evangelized the country in the fifth century.
I come here with the specific intention of seeking forgiveness, from God and from the victims, for the grave sin of sexual abuse of children by clerics. We have learned over the last decades how much harm and despair such abuse has caused to thousands of victims. We learned too that the response of some Church authorities to these crimes was often inadequate and inefficient in stopping the crimes, in spite of clear indications in the code of Canon Law.
In the name of the Church, I apologize once again to the victims, some of whom I have met here in Lough Derg.
I repeat here what the Holy Father told to the victims in His Letter to the Catholics of Ireland: “It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or to be reconciled with the Church. In her name I openly express the shame and remorse that we feel. At the same time, I ask you not to lose hope. It is in the communion of the Church that we encounter the person of Jesus Christ, who was himself a victim of injustice and sin.”
Dear brothers and sisters, in today’s Gospel, Jesus said to His disciples: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt becomes tasteless, what can make it salty again? It is good for nothing and can only be thrown out to be trampled underfoot by men.”
The tragedy of the sexual abuse of minors perpetrated by Christians, especially when done so by members of the clergy, is a source of great shame and enormous scandal. It is a sin against which Jesus himself lashed out: “It would be better for him if a millstone was put around his neck and he is thrown in to the sea than for him to cause one of the little one’s to stumble” (Lk 17:2).
As members of the Church, we must have the courage to ask humbly for God’s pardon, as well as for the forgiveness of those who have been wounded: we must remain close to them on their road of suffering, seeking in every possible way to heal and bind up the wounds following the example of the Good Samaritan.
From the context of this International Eucharistic Congress, I reaffirm the commitment of the Catholic Church to create a safe environment for children and we pray that a new culture of respect, integrity, and Christ like love would prevail in our midst and permeate the whole society.
May the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints help us all to eradicate the evil of sexual abuse and set us free toward a deep and lasting spiritual renewal of the whole Church.
We are here to pray God with the same words of Saint Augustine in the Confessions: “You called and cried to me and broke open my deafness: and you sent forth your beams and shone upon me and chased away my blindness: your breathed fragrance upon me, and I drew in my breath and do now pant for you: I tested you and now hunger and thirst for you: you touched me, and I have burned for your peace” (Book 10,27).
A true conversion can only happen through a restored deep personal relationship with Christ that we invoke for the entire Church, as the prayer of Saint Patrick, the Apostle of the faith in this country, reminds us:
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Marc Cardinal Ouellet
Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops
Papal Legate to the International Eucharistic Congress
After the homily the following prayers of intercession were prayed by all present:
- For the Church: that its leaders be bestowed with wisdom and courage to strengthen people’s faith and nourish them on their journey. Lord, hear us.
- For all of us here present: that we may be the salt of the earth for those around us and a light to guide people on their pilgrim way. Lord, hear us.
- For the failure to love, respect, nurture and cherish young people, particularly the most vulnerable, we ask your forgiveness. Lord, hear us.
- For the crimes and sins of sexual and physical abuse perpetrated against children and young people, especially in Church-run institutions, by clergy and other servants of the Church. Lord, hear us.
- For the inadequate response often given by Church leaders when abused people told their stories, we ask forgiveness. Lord, hear us.
- That all whose lives have been broken by abuse of any kind may experience support and lasting healing. Lord, hear us.
- For personal intentions, for intentions of other pilgrims and for all who are sick. Lord, hear us.
- For all who have been bereaved, and for our dead, especially family members and other loved ones; for those who died recently, all who have been pilgrims to Lough Derg and for those who died tragically or through violence. Lord, hear us.
- Lord God, through the intercession of Patrick our Patron, hear the prayers of your people gathered here in faith and hope. As you nourish us with your word, give us also the bread that gives us life – Jesus Christ your Son and our Lord, who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.
Notes for Editors
- Photographs are available for use by media from John McElroy +353 (0) 87 241 6985.
- This homily was delivered by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and Papal Legate to the International Eucharistic Congress, yesterday, 12 June 2012, during Mass in Saint Patrick’s Basilica, Station Island on Lough Derg, Co Donegal, in the Diocese of Clogher. As part of his pilgrimage to Lough Derg, the Papal Legate celebrated Mass with approximately one hundred Irish and international pilgrims, some of whom had travelled to the island as part of their attendance at the Eucharistic Congress. Before the Mass, Cardinal Ouellet, and his delegation, met with a group of survivors of child abuse in the Church which included representatives of institutional and clerical abuse, men and women, from different parts of the island of Ireland, North and South. The meeting lasted two hours during which each survivor spoke of his or her own personal experience of abuse and its impact on their lives.
- Bishop Liam MacDaid is the Bishop of Clogher. The Diocese of Clogher is a cross-border diocese which includes County Monaghan, most of County Fermanagh and portions of Counties Tyrone, Donegal, Louth and Cavan. Monsignor Richard Mohan is the Prior of Lough Derg. Station Island on Lough Derg is located in the Diocese of Clogher and has been a place of pilgrimage for 1,500 years. In 2011 over 16,600 national and international pilgrims travelled to Lough Derg to pray, undertake penance, and to reflect on the relationship with God in their lives.
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