My Reflections on Pope Francis’ Visit to Ireland…


Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate – TRANSCEND Media Service

… and His Plea for Forgiveness of Victims for Church Clerical Sexual Abuse

31 Aug 2018 – Pope Francis’ two-day visit to Ireland on the 25th and 26th of August 2018 comes at a time when people need hope. The Irish Church has been devastated by the abuse scandals, which have never been properly dealt with. The victims and survivors of church abuse have told their stories and knocked on doors trying to get a hearing, and meet those who would listen to the terrible injustices perpetrated on them by some Catholic clergy and religious institutions.  It is only in the last few years that it has been recognized by the Catholic hierarchy that clerical abuse has taken place. The pain, frustration and anger of so many victims have been allowed to fester and perpetrators of these abuses in the past often protected for fear of damage to the institution. As with all corruption, unless we go to the root of the problem and take positive action to root it out completely,   we can never have a true healing. It was into such a situation of pain and suffering of victims of clerical sexual abuse that Pope Francis arrived in Ireland.   The Pope’s plea for forgiveness for the abuse scandals was long overdue.

The Pope’s call for forgiveness and firm and decisive action will be followed closely by many.  I would support the victims call for a tribunal to be set up by the Pope to judge the bishops action and make and hold the perpetrators of the abuse to full account, so demonstrating and a commitment to full transparency and accountability.

So too on the question of reform in the church.  Renewal and Reform of the Catholic Church is necessary and can no longer be delayed. The renewal of the church will not be easy, but it can begin immediately with a holding of the Vatican Council III in which, through respectful listening and deep dialogue, solutions to the urgent issues of today can be found and put into place.  The abuse scandal in Ireland is only the tip of the iceberg, as indeed in many countries human dignity is being destroyed with the abuse of children, women and men, as they are deprived of the basic needs to enable them to live fully human and dignified lives (and know what it is to be poor and live in an unjust world where the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer). The basic right of freedom of conscience for people – to be allowed to choose how to live their lives – must be upheld. It was very symbolic that Pope Francis spoke from the Marion Shrine at Knock where the message of peace and nonviolence needs to be proclaimed   strongly.   In Ireland, and indeed the world’s people, are looking for moral and spiritual Leadership, and Pope Francis, gives hope when he speaks out against war, nuclear weapons and for peace and disarmament.

In 1978, Betty Williams and I had the privilege of a 30-minute private conversation with Pope John Paull II in the Vatican. Coming out of a violent conflict in N. Ireland, we appealed to the Pope to reject the “Just War” theory and to bring forward a theology of nonviolence and peace for the Catholic Church. When Pope John Paul visited Ireland the following year he appealed to people to reject violence and build peace. However, we still await from the Vatican an encyclical on Christian nonviolence and a rejection of “Just War” theology.  Pope Francis in his papacy has given spiritual leadership and called for the total abolition of nuclear weapons and peace making. His visit to Knock, whilst rightly focusing on church’s abuse scandals, was a missed opportunity to call for nonviolence, and the abolition of militarism and war.

I believe Christ’s message of nonviolence,  has been betrayed and  perverted by the theology of ‘Just war’ which has lead to the blessing of armies, armaments, militarism and wars in which Christians  feel they can justifiably play a  leading role.  The ‘Just war’ theology has also been used by those waging ‘armed struggles’ invasions, and military occupations.  However, if we have not as a Christian community taught nonviolence in our education systems, in our theological colleges, in our homes, in our churches, how are we to make the choice between violence and nonviolence? How are we to prevent abuse, violence, or politically driven deprivation when their root, the concept of a ‘Just War’ retains any credibility? I believe that when the church chooses to reject “Just War” theology and replaces it with a theology of nonviolence,  then other things  in the church will change.

I am grateful for the visit of Pope Francis as I believe  his humility and love in speaking to the suffering of the victims and survivors, has begun a healing process, and  raised  hope for a new beginning for many people.

I am also grateful for the Pope’s call this August to continue working for peace and in support of the Peace Process. In his speeches Pope Francis reminded us of our duty to protect the children from abuse and teach peace.  I believe the greatest abuse to millions of children is that of guns, militarism and wars, and that we are challenged to work for complete disarmament and end to violence and war.

In my opinion an Encyclical on Nonviolence and Disarmament from Pope Francis would give hope and encourage us all to take up our responsibility–which is and always has been–to build peace in Ireland and Peace in the World.


Mairead Corrigan Maguire, co-founder of Peace People, is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. She won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work for peace in Northern Ireland. Her book The Vision of Peace (edited by John Dear, with a foreword by Desmond Tutu and a preface by the Dalai Lama) is available from She lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. See:


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 3 Sep 2018.

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2 Responses to “My Reflections on Pope Francis’ Visit to Ireland…”

  1. Dear Mairead,

    Whilst I respect your respect for Pope Francis, I’m afreid I strongly disagree with you. To begin with, I know Pope Francis since his days as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio in Argentina, also my country. Most of Argentina’s Church sexual abuses were – and are perpetrated by his mafia – the Jesuits – as you probably know, one of the fiercest armies in the history of Catholicism. Not surprising, after all Ignacio de Loyola was a fearless soldier. As Cardinal Bergoglio (remember Jesuits are the Secret Services of the Vatican) your idol had knowledge of many sexual abuses perpetrated by his friends and colleagues.

    He was also responsible for the death of several Left Wing priests as he was, denouncing them to our savage military dictators, for whom he conducted all the masses and important family events.

    Anyway, to come to his visit to Ireland, his speech, that you so much liked, calling it “His Plea for Forgiveness of Victims for Church Clerical Sexual Abuse”, is exactly that “Oh, victims, forgive us for having raped you, until…..we do it again !!!!” Pope Francis know human psychology, human needs and human behaviour. He knows very well that, until the day comes, when priests and nuns are allowed to marry, have families and have all the sex their Nature demands, abuses in the Roman Catholic Church will never cease.

    As for your ‘Just War’ discourse, you know very well that no war is or has ever been ‘just’, whether caused by religious or non-religious greed and rivalries. As for the “theology of nonviolence and peace for the Catholic Church”, no Pope could ever put it into practice. The number of shares the Catholic – and Protestant – Church have in the Military Industry, makes Peace an illusion.

    This is why, being a very shrewd diplomat, Pope Francis in his papacy has called for the total abolition of nuclear weapons and “peace making”, knowing that with current availability of conventional weapons and Armed Forces galore, peace will never come. We must also not forget that Catholic military manufacturers also donate to the Vatican.

    The world is not in the miserable, violent state we know, by accident. Unless we demilitarise the planet, no Pope, no Religion, no Politician, can create PEACE.

    In Peace,


  2. Sean English says:

    Many thanks for your article and your attempt to outline some positive ways that the global war system may be eventually undermined. Particularly in relation to the attempts to undermine the just war theory that has been the resort of those who profit from war for over two and a half thousand years and probably earlier than Thucydides.
    Before the Pope arrived in Ireland and during his visit we had a media frenzy of the usual ants- religious and anti-Catholic negativities. The level of hypocrisies in the media echo chambers seemed to reach new levels of propaganda. The self righteousness of the morally self righteous was a wonder to behold.