Sunday 20 October 2019

Funeral told of Cardinal's tears over clerical sex abuse victims

Cardinal Connell's remains are taken to the crypt under St Mary's Pro-Cathedral, Dublin
Cardinal Connell's remains are taken to the crypt under St Mary's Pro-Cathedral, Dublin

The Pope's representative in Ireland has revealed how he witnessed an anguished Cardinal Desmond Connell in tears at the Vatican over the clerical abuse of children at the turn of the millennium.

Speaking to the Herald after the funeral Mass of the former archbishop of Dublin at St Mary's Pro Cathedral, the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, recalled seeing Dr Connell in Rome "filled with anguish about the horrors of the sexual abuse of children".

Cardinal Connell worked at the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (1993-2001), where Archbishop Brown served until 2011, when he was appointed to Ireland.

"When I say visible anguish, it was visible in his tears which I witnessed," he said.

He said the evil of that was "completely inconceivable and unfathomable" to him.

The funeral Mass was concelebrated by Archbishops Diarmuid Martin, Michael Neary, Eamon Martin, Kieran O'Reilly, the Papal Nuncio and Cardinal Sean Brady.

Archbishop Brown read a message from Pope Francis expressing his condolences on the death of Cardinal Connell.

The chief mourners at the Mass were the late Cardinal's sister-in-law Peggy, as well as nephews John, Denis and Mark and his wider family circle.

In his homily, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin reminded those who had acted as advisors to the Cardinal in the abuse scandals that they bore responsibility for the perception of the Cardinal's handling of the abuse crisis.

He stated that Dr Connell had "found himself surrounded by a culture and at times by advisors who were slow and perhaps even unwilling to recognise both the extent of the problem and the enormous hurt that had been done to children, a hurt they still carry."

Dr Martin said that hurt has still to be fully recognised and the wound could not be consigned to past history. "For victims it still remains," he emphasised.

He underlined that it was Cardinal Connell who was the one who finally began to realise the extent of the abuse and "with difficulty began to drag out information which some were still reluctant to share".


"He must be remembered as the one who established the child protection service in this diocese, which was the beginning of a new culture which has now, thank God, been widely accepted and welcomed."

His views were echoed by clerical abuse survivor, Mark Vincent Healy, who attended the funeral. He said: "We have to try to move forward but moving forward is not to forget things."

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