Pope could herald new start for Catholic church in Ireland if he shows contrition

The Irish Times

March 24, 2018

By Patsy McGarry

Vatican photograph from 2007 captures church past and questions its future

It is the story of a photograph: four cardinals, all Irish, and one president, Mary McAleese. The occasion was the elevation in 2007 of the then primate of All Ireland Archbishop Seán Brady to the College of Cardinals.

The location was the Irish College in Rome. Cardinal Desmond Connell and Cardinal Cahal Daly stand to McAleese’s right. Standing to her left, Cardinal Seán Brady and Cardinal Keith O’Brien.

The latter was born on March 17th, 1938, in Ballycastle, Co Antrim. His family moved to Scotland while he was still young, settling in Edinburgh. His death last Monday, aged 80 brought back memories of the photograph.

However, it raised thoughts, too, about the damage caused to the Catholic Church by its handling of sexual abuse allegations; but also about next August’s visit by Pope Francis.

It could be an opportunity to heal, if the right choices are made now. His personal stature is such that he is seen by many, and not just Catholics, as separate from the institution he leads, and which he himself struggles to reform.

Appropriate contrition from him to all the Irish people – abuse victims, their families, perhaps even the Irish Catholic Church itself where appropriate – could herald a new beginning. For there is much contrition to be done.

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