Following the publication of the report into mother and baby homes in Northern Ireland, the Primate of All Ireland says he is “truly sorry” and asks for “the forgiveness of survivors”.
Giving a nod to the report, published two weeks ago, detailing the practices of similar institutions in the Republic of Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin reflected on the need to reflect on Ireland’s difficult past.
“The month of January 2021,” he said, “will go down in history as the time when the people of Ireland – north and south – came face to face with a stark reality of our past which we preferred would remain hushed and hidden – the way we stigmatised and harshly judged many vulnerable pregnant women in crisis and treated them and their children in such a cold and uncaring manner. We made them feel guilty and ashamed.”
He praised the survivors who came forward and “lifted the lid on this dark chapter of our shared history and exposed our hypocrisy to the glaring light”.
Apologising for the role of the church in perpetuation the difficult he environment, Martin said:
“As a Catholic Church leader in Ireland it is I who now feel embarrassed and guilty over the way in which we in the Church contributed to, and bolstered, that culture of concealment, condemnation, and self-righteousness. For that I am truly sorry and ask the forgiveness of survivors. How did we so obscure the love and mercy and compassion of Christ which is at the very heart of the Gospel? Shame on us.”
“The story of Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries in Ireland – north and south – touches the lives of countless families across this island. No doubt it will rekindle troubling memories and raise difficult questions for many of us. However we can all play a part in the journey towards healing and reparation. We can also ensure that lessons are learned for the present and the future. No mother or child today should be made to feel unwelcome, unwanted or unloved. No father today should shirk his responsibilities. No priest or bishop or religious sister or any lay member of the Church today should deny the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus. No family today should shun their child to protect some misguided notion of ‘respectability’ in the parish community. We still have so much to learn and so much work to do.”
Thanking Dr McCormick and Professor O’Connell, who carried out the research, he urged the public to reflect on the report and encouraged “all in leadership within the Church and State” to help and cooperate with the new investigation announced by Northern Ireland’s Executive yesterday.