To coincide with the first anniversary of the Pastoral Letter of Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland, Irish bishops have published the pastoral response Towards Healing and Renewal.   Copies of this pastoral response are available in parishes across the country and online from 7:00pm this evening.

Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, has encouraged everyone to read this short pastoral response to key issues raised by the Pope’s letter of March 2010.

Cardinal Brady said “Towards Healing and Renewal – which has been published to mark the first anniversary of Pope Benedict’s Pastoral Letter – is a short but very important pastoral document.   It represents part of a wider response and longer journey by the Church in offering its support to survivors of abuse on their journey to healing and peace, and in committing itself to renewal.  I urge everyone to read Towards Healing and Renewal.

“The publication today of Towards Healing and Renewal, along with our five-year undertaking to continue funding of the new and expanded Church counselling service for survivors of abuse, are both tangible signs of our commitment to work with all people of goodwill to ensure, as best we can, that every child on this island is properly cared for and kept safe from all forms of abuse and harm.”

Cardinal Brady continued, “As a result of the grievous wrong of abuse, for many survivors their faith in God and the Church has been profoundly damaged.  Many have expressed a hope that this damage can be addressed.  In Towards Healing and Renewal we commit trained pastoral personnel to this delicate challenge of healing and renewal.”

In his 2010 Pastoral Letter Pope Benedict XVI apologised to victims of abuse and suggested that the Church in Ireland work towards healing, renewal and reparation.  He called for “a new vision [to] inspire present and future generations to treasure our common faith.”  Since Pope Benedict’s Pastoral Letter the following has taken place across Ireland:
•    Bishops met with, and listened to, survivors of abuse and their representatives. These meetings will continue with survivors and their representatives to hear their views on Towards Healing and Renewal.
•    Listening and consultation on the subject of renewal in the Church has also taken place.  Over 3,000 people contributed responses addressing renewal: just over a quarter of these came through diocesan channels, a fifth from lay associations and almost half from religious communities.

Towards Healing and Renewal expresses the bishops’ commitment to existing initiatives as well as to a number of new initiatives.  It focuses on:
•    Prayer for survivors of abuse
•    Listening with care and sensitivity
•    Spiritual support to individual survivors of abuse
•    Creating a safer future for children in the Church and
•    Review of dioceses, religious congregations and societies by the National Board for Safeguarding Children.
Cardinal Brady said, “Pastoral outreach to survivors is a necessary Church response to abuse, but so too is the offer of professional assistance to those in need.  Last month the Irish Bishops’ Conference, the Conference of Religious of Ireland, and the Irish Missionary Union launched an expanded counselling service for survivors of abuse.  Towards Healing is a free, confidential helpline and counselling referral service and it continues the important work of Faoiseamh.  It provides survivors with a professional and caring environment along with a wide range of support services.

“For Christians, prayer is an essential part of the journey to healing and renewal.  We, as bishops, renew our commitment to the tradition of Friday Penance with a particular emphasis on remembering the suffering of those who have been abused.  Towards Healing and Renewal also refers to the vital role of parishes in assisting the process of healing for survivors of abuse.”

Cardinal Brady concluded, “A colossal breach of trust occurs when a child is abused.  If the abuser is a priest or religious then an even greater betrayal has been perpetrated.  The mismanagement of abuse allegations by church authorities compounded this damage.  As we continue on our journey of renewal, the Church resolves to repair the breach of trust which has taken place.  We ask humbly that we be given this opportunity.”