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Cardinal discusses upcoming Irish visitation

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BRAINTREE -- In a phone interview with The Pilot June 2, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley discussed his expectations and role in the visitation of the Church in Ireland two days after Pope Benedict XVI appointed him to be the visitor of the Archdiocese of Dublin.

Q: Your Eminence, can you describe your role and the importance of this visitation for the Church in Ireland?

A: I begin by saying that the Holy Father in his letter to the Irish Church announced that he was going to initiate visitations in Ireland and so obviously this is an initiative of the Holy Father and as such it is very important.

I am very honored to have been asked to assist in this process. I see my role as the representative of the Holy See to those in Dublin and to try and ascertain exactly what the situation of the Archdiocese of Dublin is in regard to the sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

The visitation will involve interviews with many different members of the Archdiocese of Dublin as well as the survivors of sexual abuse. At the end of the visitation we will prepare a sealed report that drafts recommendations for the Holy See. The report belongs to the Holy See; it is not a public report. They will then decide what is the best use of the information we are able to present.

Q: How long do you expect this visitation to last?

A: The visitations I have done before were of a much smaller scope. I have always been assigned as visitor for seminaries and those visitations would last a few days. I presume that with the Archdiocese of Dublin, with so many people to interview, it will take some time. I envision making a couple of trips to Ireland. We will spend as much time as we need. It is only once we get started that we will have a better idea of how many interviews will be involved and how long the entire visitation will take.

Q: Do you think this visitation will impact your ability to lead the Church in Boston during this time?

A: Obviously with telecommunications what they are today, with cell phones and e-mail, even when I am traveling I am able to be very well informed about what is happening in Boston. Besides the fact, I have a very good vicar general and auxiliary bishops and staff who are in place to always keep me informed. So I don’t see this as having any detrimental impact on the Archdiocese of Boston.

Q: Some are calling the Holy Father’s move an “internal housekeeping job.” According to you, how serious is this visitation in the mind of the Holy Father?

A: I think it is very serious on the part of the Holy Father. First of all, for him to have announced it (the visitation) to the world in his letter to the Irish Church and for he himself to appoint the visitors shows his involvement and commitment to this process.

So I would say that the Holy Father sees this as an important part of the way forward for the Church in Ireland; to have a clear understanding of what the history is, what has happened, so that the problem can be addressed going forward in the very best way.

Q: The Vatican has said that you can help Catholics in Dublin address “the truth of a dark moment in its history” as it “undertakes a period of conversion, purification and renewal” because of your experience taking over the Archdiocese of Boston in 2003 after its sexual abuse crisis...

A: Truth be told, it is almost 20 years that I have been dealing with cases of clergy sexual abuse. And during that time I have met with hundreds of victims and people who are dealing with the problem of sexual abuse. I think the experience I have had can be of some use in this visitation and hopefully we will be able to be of some help to the Irish Church.

In Boston, we have a great sense of communion with the Church in Ireland; we owe a great debt to the Irish Church for our own faith and so obviously we are anxious to do whatever we can to help the people of Ireland and to make this visitation as valuable as possible to the Holy Father.

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