Pope in Knock: begs forgiveness for abuse scandals and prays for NI peace process

Pope in Knock: begs forgiveness for abuse scandals and prays for NI peace process
The Pope in Ireland


Visiting the Marian Shrine

Praying for the victims of abuse in Ireland, Pope Francis begged the Lord for forgiveness and for the intercession of Our Lady to heal survivors.

During his visit to the Marian Shrine in Knock the Pope described the clerical abuse scandals in Ireland as an “open wound”, while praying at the shrine in front of an audience of thousands. In a strong message of reconciliation, he said that this challenges the Church to pursue truth and justice.

Going off script, Francis also referred to the separation of children from their mothers, in an apparent reference to Ireland’s Mother and Baby Homes.

He was told in detail about the institutions in a private meeting with survivors of clerical sex abuse in Ireland, people who spent time in industrial schools, seminaries and Mother and Baby Homes, in the residence of the Papal Nuncio.


While at the shrine, the Pontiff spent some time in prayer at the Apparition chapel, during which he entrusted to Mary’s care the victims and survivors of abuse.

“In my prayer before her statue, I presented to her in particular all the victims of abuse of whatever kind committed by the members of the Church in Ireland,” he said. “None of us can fail to be moved by the stories of young people who suffered abuse, were robbed of their innocence and left scarred by painful memories.”

He said that this “open wound challenges us to be firm in the pursuit of truth and justice”.

Francis arrived at Ireland West Airport on an Aer Lingus flight aptly named EI1979, a reference to St John Paul II’s visit in 1979. He landed just after 9.40am on Sunday August 26 and spent an hour and a half at the Shrine, where he led pilgrims in the Angelus Prayer.

Pope Francis begged God for forgiveness “for the sins and for the scandal and betrayal felt by so many others in God’s family”.

“I ask our Blessed Mother to intercede for the healing of the survivors and to confirm every member of our Christian family in the resolve never again to permit these situations to occur.”

Preparation for the papal visit to Knock began at 8.25am when the bells of Knock Shrine where rung out.

From 8.30am, there was a gathering event entitled Witness to Faith and Family which included video presentations, drama and music. Pilgrims were led in prayer and reflection until the arrival of the Pontiff.

The event focused on the story of Knock through the testimony of the witnesses to the 1879 apparition at the shrine, and Pope Francis’ invitation to witness to the joy of Faith and family in the contemporary world. Music for the occasion was provided by Knock Parish Choir with guest musicians and soloists.

Francis moved through the assembly on the Popemobile and met the Rector of the Shrine Fr Richard Gibbons. He presented the shrine with a golden rosary, saying he knows how “important the tradition of the family rosary has been in this country”.

“Who can tell how many hearts, of fathers, mothers and children alike, have drawn comfort and strength over the years from meditating on Our Lady’s participation in the joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious mysteries of Christ’s life.”

Francis also asked Our Lady to sustain families in their efforts to advance Christ’s Kingdom and care for “the least of our brothers and sisters”.

Although there wasn’t a visit to the North of Ireland on the Pope’s itinerary, he addressed this by sending “a warm greeting to the beloved people of Northern Ireland”.

He promoted the work towards reconciliation and asked Our Lady to “sustain all the members of the Irish family to persevere, as brothers and sisters” in the work towards achieving this goal.

“With gratitude for advance of ecumenism, and the significant growth of friendship and cooperation between the Christian communities, I pray that all Christ’s followers will support the continuing efforts to advance the peace process and to build a harmonious and just society for today’s children.”

In a post-Angelus address he offered a special greeting to men and women in Ireland’s prison system, especially thanking those that wrote to him when they heard of his visit to Ireland.

He added: “I assure you and your families of my closeness in prayer. May Our Lady of Mercy watch over you and protect you, and strengthen you in Faith and hope.”