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Perhaps we need a second Reformation to finish the job of the first

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ON Erin’s green valleys and in her once-devoted towns and villages the call to honour a visiting pontiff was only sparsely answered. The visit of Pope Francis to Ireland last week carried none of the power and the glory of Pope John Paul II’s in 1979 and far less resonance. Francis, the Argentinian Jesuit. was not quite on his hands and knees seeking forgiveness for the sins of his church but he might as well have been.

Rarely has a Pope visiting a Catholic country felt the need to seek forgiveness in this way and never with such remorse. This wasn’t the Supreme Pontiff Of The Universal Church; Patriarch Of The West; Primate Of Italy; Archbishop And Metropolitan Of The Roman Province and Sovereign Of the Vatican. This was Francis paraphrasing Graham Greene’s whisky priest in the Power and the Glory. “God, forgive me – this is a proud, lustful, greedy church. It has loved authority too much. These people are martyrs – protecting me with their own lives. They deserve a martyr to care for them – not a church like this, which loves all the wrong things.”

Even this was not enough for some who had suffered grievously at the hands of predator priests and bishops or for others who had felt utterly betrayed by a hierarchy that preached the love and salvation of Christ but offered only exploitation and demanded obedience in return. Yet, how could any spoken apology ever heal a hurt endured over generations? Only a firm purpose of amendment backed up by radical action could achieve that, and it would only be a beginning.


© Herald Scotland