Papal Legate to the 50th International Eucharistic Congress Cardinal Marc Ouellet has met a representative group of survivors of clerical child abuse.
The meeting, which took place during the Legate’s pilgrimage to Lough Derg, lasted two hours during which each survivor spoke of their personal experiences of abuse and its impact on their lives.
The group included representatives of institutional and clerical abuse, both men and women, from different parts of the island of Ireland.
Cardinal Ouellet undertook the penitential pilgrimage on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI as a public expression of penance and repentance for the abuse of children by clerics in the Irish and universal Catholic church.
After the meeting he celebrated mass in St Patrick's Basilica on the island with around 100 Irish and international pilgrims, some of whom had travelled to the island as part of their attendance at the Eucharistic Congress.
During his homily, Cardinal Ouellet said the Pope had asked him to come to Lough Derg and ask God's forgiveness for the times clerics have sexually abused children not only in Ireland but anywhere in the Church.
He said: "I come here with the specific intention of seeking forgiveness, from God and from the Victims, for the grave sin of sexual abuse of children by clerics.
“We have learned over the last decades how much harm and despair such abuse caused to thousands of victims.
“We learned too that the response of some Church authorities to these crimes was often inadequate and inefficient, in spite of clear indications in the code of canon law.
“In the name of the Church, I apologize once again to the victims, some of which I have met here in Lough Derg," he said.
Among those accompanying Cardinal Ouellet overnight was the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, and the Bishop of Clogher, Dr Liam MacDaid.
A statement from Irish hierarchy’s communications' office said they fasted and participated in other penitential exercises with other pilgrims on the island.
It added that the Cardinal was deeply moved by the meeting with the abuse survivors and that he would be reporting on the encounter to Pope Benedict on his return to Rome.
However, two organizations representing survivors - Right of Place and VOTES have said that the Legate should also meet advocacy groups.
They also called on the organisers to offer victims an opportunity to address the Congress.