Pope ‘very distressed’ at Ryan briefing by top Irish clerics

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PADDY AGNEW in Rome

POPE BENEDICT XVI showed his distress at the Ryan report on child abuse at religious institutions in Ireland during a half-hour meeting in the Vatican yesterday evening with Archbishop of Armagh Cardinal Seán Brady and Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin.

Asked what had most disturbed the pope in the Ryan report, Archbishop Martin replied: “This is a different case from many others because it is about the institutionalisation of a problem.”

However, there was no comment from the pope or his officials last night. The Vatican has refrained from making any comment on the Ryan report, with official spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi commenting merely that this was “a matter for the local church”.

The church leaders told The Irish Times after their meeting that Pope Benedict had listened attentively to what they had to say.

“He listened very carefully, he was obviously very distressed about what we had to tell him. In fact, he allowed us to do most of the talking and he listened very sympathetically and attentively to what we said,” said Cardinal Brady. “He obviously has been informed about it ,” said Archbishop Martin, adding: “He didn’t read the entire thing, but he was aware of it and very distressed by it.”

Asked if the pope t was fully aware of the level of anger and outrage in Irish public opinion, both men underlined that they had made this very clear. “We told him what we feel and what we know and what we’re hearing as priests.

“We talked about the church in Ireland, where this came out of and what is the future. You could see that it was distressing for him, what we said and what he knew, there was no doubt about that,” said Archbishop Martin.

Cardinal Brady and Archbishop Martin were unwilling to go into greater detail on the nature of their audience with Pope Benedict, pointing out that they are due to report to a plenary session of the Irish Bishops’ Conference next Monday.

Both men said they had not travelled to Rome exclusively for the purpose of an audience with the pope since both had been here all week long and have had a series of meetings with various Vatican departments on a whole range of issues.

A church spokesman in Dublin last night said they had also met six senior members of the Curia, the central government body of the church including Cardinal Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state.

But even if both Cardinal Brady and Archbishop Martin had other items on their Holy See agenda, however, clearly this meeting with the pope was their number one priority.

To some extent, it was similar to the infamous meetings convened in the Vatican in 2002, when the ailing Pope John Paul II summoned the North American cardinals in order to discuss the implications of the burgeoning US sex abuse scandal.

This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times

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