Prendergast conducts first phase of Irish Apostolic Visitation

  • December 23, 2010
Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J.OTTAWA - Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J., came with “attentive ears and discerning heart” as he conducted the first phase of an Apostolic Visitation to the Tuam archdiocese in Ireland Dec. 13-19.

Prendergast was one of four foreign cardinals and archbishops appointed by Pope Benedict XVI last spring as Apostolic Visitor to address the Irish clergy abuse scandal and its impact on the Church in Ireland. Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley visited the Dublin archdiocese in late November, Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins is expected to visit Ireland’s Cashel and Emily archdiocese in late January or early February and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Westminster’s archbishop emeritus, is scheduled to visit the Armagh archdiocese in mid-January.

Apostolic Visitors do not come with ready-made answers, Prendergast told a penitential service Dec. 14 in the cathedral of the Tuam archdiocese. They come with “attentive ears and discerning hearts, to listen to what the Spirit is saying to the local churches that we are privileged to visit,” he said.

Assisted by fellow Jesuit Father James Conn of the Pontifical Gregorian University and Boston College, Prendergast said he came not only to hear members of the Irish Church share their pain, but also to hear their hopes, insights and suggestions so he can pass along recommendations to the Holy Father that might lead to a hoped for renewal.

“We come with the desire to manifest a ministry of encouragement, a zeal for reconciliation, a hope that, as Pope Benedict mentioned in his letter to Ireland, the Irish Church, as a source of blessing rather than an occasion for shame, may come to the fore again.”

Prendergast stressed the seriousness of the abuse of children by those in a position of trust, whether in the family or in the Church. In his homily, he pointed out how the Gospel lesson showed Jesus rebuking His disciples for their “improper use of authority.”

Jesus had many reasons to reject His chosen Apostles, the “antecedents of His bishops and priests of today, but He does not do this,” Prendergast said. “Rather He constantly takes them aside to teach them, and, through them, He teaches us His followers.”

He urged His disciples to go “right through the experience of betrayal, denial and disgrace into the new life in a place called ‘Galilee’ (somewhere not unlike Galway or Tuam), with sins forgiven, because we are contrite and ready to make amends, and thus with hope for the future.”

Every effort must be made to heal the victims of abuse, he said, and Church leaders must take “responsibility for sin and malfeasance committed, with the begging of forgiveness wherever needed, and ultimately with the receiving of the reconciliation which God offers.”

Welcomed by Tuam Archbishop Michael Neary, Prendergast and Conn met with a cross-section of people during the visitation, from abuse victims, to clergy, to religious and lay people who had requested to meet with the visitor through the apostolic nunciature of Ireland.

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