Letter to be read at all Masses on Safeguarding Sunday 8th/9th October 2022
3rd October 2022
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
As a society, we are increasingly aware of the risk of abuse not only to children but also to adults who may be vulnerable. In the past, we failed to ensure that many children were protected from abuse. This was compounded when they were not heard as they tried to disclose their experiences. We must not repeat the failures of the past. We must also journey with people who are living their lives with the consequences of their abuse.
Over the past year, in each Diocese in Ireland, a Synodal process has taken place. This involved consulting with people from all walks of life. They were asked about their experiences of Church and how they would like to see the Church develop into the future. As part of a worldwide process, the main themes have been brought together and submitted to Rome.
One theme relates to the need for effective response to the “open wound” of abuse within the Church and the profound effect on survivors and their families. The sense of loss, betrayal and anger was clearly expressed. It is also clear, that despite the efforts of recent years, more needs to be done. We need to continue to be open, caring and vigilant in our safeguarding practices.
Also identified was the need for the Church to reach out to those who feel the church has little to offer them. The need was stressed to reach out and listen to those who feel “outside” and to seek to develop a vison of Church in which all feel included and which sees the Church community as a source of spiritual nourishment.
Today Mass is being celebrated for all those who have suffered abuse. I am conscious that some people, particularly of an older generation, still suffer in silence. I am particularly thinking of and praying for those who have not been able to speak of their experience. Today I ask them to consider reaching out to our Diocesan Safeguarding Service or to the statutory or voluntary organisations. Help is available and contact details are available on the posters at the back of every Church.
There is a danger that we could become dispirited by the issue of abuse within the Church and the decline in Church attendance post-Covid. We can feel like the disciples in the upper room despondent until the arrival of the Holy Spirit. I believe that we are now entering a new time of renewal in the Church. I see it as the preparation for a new Pentecost in which new models of church life and ministry will provide opportunities for people to participate in Church.
Significant progress has been made in improving our safeguarding arrangements in the diocese. This progress has been recognised in external audits over the years. Hundreds of people have been trained in safeguarding and many people are actively engaged in implementing safeguarding procedures across the diocese.
I would like to acknowledge all those volunteers who contribute to the life of the diocese and the parishes. The safeguarding procedures that are currently in place provide a firm foundation for the development of an effective evangelisation process. This, please God, will see more young people and others who have disengaged from the Church returning to a Church in which they fell included and provides them with a source of spiritual nourishment, in a safe and caring environment.
With kind regards,
? Brendan Leahy
Bishop of Limerick