I am somewhat taken aback by comments reported from a Stormont committee regarding my meeting in July with Margaret McGuckin and Jon McCourt.
I asked for and hosted this meeting in Armagh which was also attended by Professor Patricia Lundy of Ulster University and Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International. The sentiments which I have learnt of today were not conveyed to me at that time or since. Moreover the statement published by the group immediately after our meeting does not reflect the issues reported on today:
I appreciate that there are deep emotions related to this most sensitive and serious of issues. I have always maintained that the Catholic Church must fully accept its responsibilities to those who have suffered abuse. The Church recognises the need for a compassionate, pastoral and proper response to redress in the context of historical institutional abuse. Abuse not only damages lives, past and present, but it also casts a long dark shadow which can obscure the light of the Gospel.
I have the greatest of respect for Margaret and Jon, and for those who, like them, have bravely come forward to share their stories and who have advocated on behalf of others. I will continue to do my best to communicate their concerns to all with leadership responsibilities in the Church, and to attempt to do so in a spirit of compassion and concern.
I sought the July meeting as I was motivated to hear directly from survivors regarding their views about redress. I did this notwithstanding the fact that the decision to establish any Redress Scheme will be a matter for the Northern Ireland Executive, and this in turn will be guided by the outcomes of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, chaired by Sir Anthony Hart, when it concludes its work.
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