DUBLIN - One of the key architects of the Northern Ireland peace process has been honored by Pope Benedict XVI for his commitment to peace and reconciliation in the region.

John Hume, a founder-member of the mainly Catholic Social Democratic and Labor Party, was credited with initiating the political dialogue that brought about the 1994 cease-fire by the Irish Republican Army. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998.

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I was a little embarrassed watching the coverage of the International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) in Dublin. Not because of anything that went on in Ireland, but rather because of my original attitude toward the congress being held there at all. Yet watching the pilgrims from around the world gathering in Dublin, I saw that their gestures of sympathy and solidarity were better than an attitude of ostracism and punishment.

When it was announced in 2008 at Quebec City that the 2012 IEC would be in Dublin, I was rather dismayed. I understood that sometimes a local Church in distress can be buoyed by such an international event — after all, that was the logic of having the IEC in Quebec City to begin with, to administer an emergency transfusion to the anemic local Church. Yet Dublin struck me as a step too far. After all, it would be hard to find any place where spectacular incompetence had brought the Church into greater crisis than in Ireland. And Irish society as a whole, led by its government, was hardly better.

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Here is the text of the homily given by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who asked forgiveness on behalf of the Church for the sexual abuse of children by some clergy.

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Related Story: Cardinal Ouellet, representing Pope, meets with Irish abuse victims

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Pope Benedict XVI asked me, as His Legate to the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, that I would come to Lough Derg and ask God’s forgiveness for the times clerics have sexually abused children not only in Ireland but anywhere in the Church.

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DUBLIN - Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, representing Pope Benedict XVI, met with Irish victims of church-related child abuse.

The cardinal, papal legate to the International Eucharistic Congress, met with the victims of institutional and clerical abuse during a pilgrimage to Lough Derg in Country Donegal June 12 and 13.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI called for prayers for the 50th International Eucharistic Congress under way in Dublin, expressing hopes it would lead to a greater appreciation of Jesus' self-sacrifice and deeper love and unity in the church.

The weeklong gathering, which opened June 10, is "a precious occasion for reaffirming the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the church," the Pope said at the end of his weekly general audience June 13.

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DUBLIN - As it prepares this week to welcome the Catholic world for the International Eucharistic Congress, the Church in Ireland is showing sparks of renewal following a dramatic loss of credibility over the past decade.

A recent survey by the Association of Catholic Priests found that weekly Mass attendance throughout the country is still one of the highest in Europe at 35 per cent.  The 2011 Irish census indicated 84 per cent of people still self-identify as Catholic.

But problems remain. In the capital, still reeling from a combination of religious apathy, secularism and disenchantment as a result of clergy sex abuse scandals, Mass attendance in some parishes is just two per cent.

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DUBLIN - The weeklong 50th International Eucharistic Congress, which gets under way in Dublin June 10, will be Ireland's largest religious event since Pope John Paul II visited in 1979.

The celebration of faith offers a lively mixture of prayer, reflection and liturgy with participation from some of the leading voices in the Catholic world.

Organizers promise an estimated 12,000 overseas visitors the traditional Irish "cead mile failte" --"a hundred thousand welcomes." Many Dubliners have opened their homes to pilgrims.

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DUBLIN - A new analysis of allegations of abuse made against 98 priests over a 70-year period shows that the alleged abuse peaked in the 1980s.

Fresh data released by the Dublin Archdiocese May 24 showed that 34 percent of complainants alleged their abuse happened in the 1980s. Just 1 percent of claims relate to alleged abuse in the period from 2000 to 2010.

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DUBLIN - A new city center "Camino," or pilgrim walk, has been launched in Dublin as part of the celebrations surrounding the International Eucharistic Congress set for June 10-17.

The walk, involving prayerful visits to seven of Dublin's most historic Catholic and Anglican churches, is partly inspired by the famous pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain and partly inspired by the traditional Dublin devotion of visiting seven churches on Holy Thursday.

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KINGSTON, ONT. - A simple yet dignified ceremony held May 19 on the waterfront of this southeastern Ontario city marked a tragic local anniversary: The death of more than 1,400 Irish immigrants fleeing the 19th-century potato famine.

Ireland’s Ambassador to Canada, Ray Bassett, laid a wreath on behalf of the Irish government in commemoration of the estimated 50,000 Irish immigrants who came through the area in 1847 fleeing Án Gorta Mór, “The Great Hunger.” Of those, an estimated 4,300 arrived in Kingston after contracting typhus on crowded “coffin” ships, with 1,400 dying after coming ashore to what was then a town of only 10,000 residents.

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DUBLIN - Irish bishops said they would support the establishment of a national day of atonement where the church, the government and wider society could seek forgiveness for abuse suffered by former residents of state-funded, church-run institutions.

A spokesman for the bishops said they would not oppose the idea of such an event provided it was "sensitively organized" and not rushed.

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VATICAN CITY - The wounds and divisions within the Catholic Church in Ireland make the upcoming International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin an important moment for renewal and reconciliation, said Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin.

The archbishop spoke at a Vatican news conference May 10 as a growing chorus of voices called for the resignation of Ireland's Catholic primate, Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland, over allegations he did not do enough to stop an abusive priest in the 1970s.

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DUBLIN - The primate of All Ireland has said he will not resign despite criticism of his role in a 1975 canonical inquiry into a pedophile priest, Norbertine Father Brendan Smyth.

In a statement issued in Armagh, Northern Ireland, May 2, Cardinal Sean Brady defended his involvement in the inquiry and accused the BBC documentary "The World: The Shame of the Catholic Church" of making a number of claims that overstated and misrepresented his role.

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DUBLIN - A series of censures has brought to the fore the divisions within the Irish Church between those who seek a leaner and smaller Church that adheres more strictly to the magisterium and those who seek space to discuss Church issues.

Up to 250 nuns, priests and laypeople held a silent protest outside the Vatican Embassy April 29 to protest the doctrinal congregation’s censure of five Irish priests over their stance on issues such as the ordination of women, the ban on artificial birth control and homosexuality.

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DUBLIN - Ireland's parliament rejected legislation that would have allowed a controversial 1992 Supreme Court ruling permitting abortion in limited circumstances to take effect.

The Socialist Party motion was defeated 111-20 April 19.

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