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Vatican begins inquiry into Irish Church

Catholic World News - November 12, 2010

In a lengthy public statement released on November 12, the Vatican has outlined plans for the apostolic visitation of the Church in Ireland, explaining that the process “is intended to assist the local Church on her path to renewal.”

In the first stage of the visitation—which, according to the Vatican statement, should be concluded by Easter 2011—the Pope’s appointed representatives will “make themselves available to meet with those who have been deeply wounded by abuse and who wish to be met and heard, beginning with the victims themselves and their families.”

The Vatican statement encourages victims to contact the prelates conducting the investigation. It warns, however, that the visitators will not grant interviews to the media as they conduct their work.

The Vatican had already announced that the Pope has appointed four prelates to oversee the visitation in Ireland’s four metropolitan archdioceses: Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the retired Archbishop of Westminster, in the Archdiocese of Armagh; Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston in the Archdiocese of Dublin; Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto in Cashel and Emly; and Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa in the Archdiocese of Tuam. New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan will conduct a separate visitation of the Irish seminaries.

The visitation, the Vatican explains, “will not be an investigation into individual cases of abuse nor a trial to judge past events.” Rather, the visitators will attempt to ascertain whether the Church in Ireland has responded adequately to the abuse crisis there, whether the procedures now in place to prevent abuse are adequate, and whether a “profound spiritual renewal” is underway.

“The Visitation will in no way interfere with the ordinary activity of local magistrates,” the Vatican statement assures. Moreover, “The Visitation does not seek to replace the legitimate authority of the local bishops or religious superiors, who maintain responsibility in the handling of cases of abuse.”

The Vatican statement includes a recommendation “that each archdiocese, embracing the penitential sentiments expressed by the Holy Father in his Letter, organize a penitential service or some other similar gathering in the presence of the Visitator with the approval of the local ordinary. This will correspond with the penitential activities already promoted by the Irish Episcopal Conference, which include prayer, fasting and almsgiving.”

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