Vocations in Ireland have dwindled due to abuse scandal, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — While the faith of Catholics in
Ireland is strong, the scandal of abuse and cover-up by church leaders has
caused a decline in vocations to the priesthood and religious life, Pope
Francis said.

During his weekly general audience Aug. 29, the pope led
pilgrims in praying a “Hail Mary” to Our Lady of Knock so “the
Lord may send holy priests to Ireland, that he sends new vocations.”

“In Ireland there is faith; there are people of faith, a faith with great roots. But you know
something? There are few vocations to the priesthood. Why? This faith doesn’t flourish because of
these problems, the scandals, many things,” he said.

In his audience talk, the pope reflected on his visit Aug. 25-26 to
Ireland for the World Meeting of Families.

The thousands of families participating from around the world, he said, were
“an eloquent sign of the beauty of God’s dream for the entire human

“God’s dream is unity, harmony and peace, the fruit of
fidelity, forgiveness and reconciliation that he has given us in Christ,”
the pope said. “In the mystery of his love, he calls families to
participate in this dream and make the world a home where nobody is alone,
unwanted or excluded.”

The witness given by couples during the meeting, he continued,
was a reminder that
love in marriage is a gift from God that is “cultivated every day in the
domestic church” and spreads “its beauty in the great community of
the church and of society.”

“How much is the world in need of a revolution of love,
of tenderness!” the pope said. “This revolution begins in the heart
of the family.”

Pope Francis said that although there were moments of great
joy during his trip,
there were also moments of “pain and bitterness” caused by the
suffering endured by survivors of abuse and “the fact that church leaders in the past did not
always know how to adequately address these crimes.”

His meeting
Aug. 25 with abuse survivors left “a profound mark,” and he
said he prayed for forgiveness “for these sins, for the scandal and the
sense of betrayal” felt by survivors and members of the church.

“I prayed that Our Lady would intercede for the healing of victims and give us the strength
to firmly pursue truth and justice,” the pope said.

The Irish bishops, he said, have taken “a serious path
of purification and reconciliation” with those who have suffered and have
worked alongside government authorities to establish “a series of severe
norms to guarantee the safety of young people.”

“In my meeting with the bishops, I encouraged them in
their efforts to remedy the failures of the past with honesty and courage,
trusting in the promises of the Lord and counting on the profound faith of the
Irish people, to inaugurate a season of renewal of the church in Ireland,”
Pope Francis said.

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