Belfast Telegraph

Pope faces gargantuan challenge on abuse crisis: McAleese

By Sarah MacDonald

The clerical abuse crisis in the Catholic Church is entering an "even more disturbing and disruptive chapter", former Irish president Mary McAleese has warned.

Speaking in Dublin last night, Dr McAleese said the resignation of Bishop of Dromore John McAreavey in March over his mishandling of the case of child abuser Fr Malachy Finegan, as well as the clerical abuse scandals in Chile, suggested that Pope Francis is facing a "gargantuan endeavour".

Dr McAleese also said the Pope's forthcoming visit to Ireland may be something of a make or break moment for him.

She was speaking at the launch of the book The Pope Francis Agenda by Fr Donal Dorr in St Patrick's College, Drumcondra.

Citing veteran Vatican watcher Robert Mickens, she said he had noted that esteem and affection for Pope Francis is widespread in Ireland and that this is reflected in the interest in his visit. However, Mr Mickens warned: "The majority of people in Ireland also give Francis low marks in his handling of the sex abuse crisis."

Dr McAleese also highlighted the warning of the former editor of The Tablet, Catherine Pepinster, who said the Pope is "failing" to tackle the abuse issue.

She said the abuse "crisis now threatens to engulf his papacy and do lasting damage to Francis's own reputation".

Speaking two weeks' ago, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said it would be important that the Pope address the issue of abuse "because the wounds are there, and new wounds are emerging". However, Dr Martin revealed on Wednesday that he has had no definitive answer from the Vatican as to whether the Pope will meet survivors of clerical abuse and abuse in church-run institutions.

Clerical abuse survivor Marie Collins said Francis should meet survivors including representatives of the industrial schools, Magdalene laundries and mother and baby homes "as a recognition of those horrors".

Belfast Telegraph

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