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Posted October 31, 2006

Secularism Won't Satisfy, Pope Tells Irish Bishops

He Also Urges Them to Bring Healing to Sex-Abuse Victims

Benedict XVI urged Irish bishops to help their people recognize the inability of the "secular, materialist culture" to bring them true joy.

The Pope also encouraged the prelates to "establish the truth" behind the clerical sex abuse scandals in Ireland and "to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes."

The Holy Father delivered his wide-ranging address to the bishops on Saturday, on the occasion of their five-yearly visit to Rome.

"The present time brings many new opportunities to bear witness to Christ and fresh challenges for the Church in Ireland," said Benedict XVI, who earlier had met individually with the bishops. "You have spoken about the consequences for society of the rise in prosperity that the last 15 years have brought.

"Your people need to view the changes in society with discernment, and here they look to you for leadership. Help them to recognize the inability of the secular, materialist culture to bring true satisfaction and joy. Be bold in speaking to them of the joy that comes from following Christ and living according to his commandments."

The Pope cautioned: "Even though it is necessary to speak out strongly against the evils that threaten us, we must correct the idea that Catholicism is merely 'a collection of prohibitions.' Sound catechesis and careful 'formation of the heart' are needed here, and in this regard you are blessed in Ireland with solid resources in your network of Catholic schools.

"Superficial presentations of Catholic teaching must be avoided, because only the fullness of the faith can communicate the liberating power of the Gospel."

Benedict XVI then turned to the reports of sex abuse scandals that rocked Ireland in recent years.

Heart-rending cases

"In the exercise of your pastoral ministry, you have had to respond in recent years to many heart-rending cases of sexual abuse of minors," the Holy Father said. "These are all the more tragic when the abuser is a cleric.

"The wounds caused by such acts run deep, and it is an urgent task to rebuild confidence and trust where these have been damaged. In your continuing efforts to deal effectively with this problem, it is important to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes."

"In this way," the Pope said, "the Church in Ireland will grow stronger and be ever more capable of giving witness to the redemptive power of the Cross of Christ."

On a positive note the Holy Father said: "The fine work and selfless dedication of the great majority of priests and religious in Ireland should not be obscured by the transgressions of some of their brethren. I am certain that the people understand this, and continue to regard their clergy with affection and esteem.

"Encourage your priests always to seek spiritual renewal and to discover afresh the joy of ministering to their flocks within the great family of the Church."