In dramatic scenes, the archbishops of Dublin and Boston washed and dried the feet of eight victims of clerical abuse on Sunday in a Dublin cathedral.
The archbishops invited five women and three men who were abused to come forward and have their feet washed. Several of them cried as Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston kneeled and washed and dried their feet.
Martin stated he was deeply sorry for what happened in his Dublin archdiocese. A report last year castigated his predecessors for their actions in covering up for pedophile priests.
"For covering up crimes of abuse, and by so doing actually causing the sexual abuse of more children... we ask God's forgiveness," Martin told the congregation.
"The archdiocese of Dublin will never be the same again. It will always bear this wound within it."
"For them to get down on their knees, it was humbling," said Darren McGavin, 39, who was abused as a child.
"I've found it hard to forgive, but today I found a small bit of closure."
O’Malley stated that the washing of the feet was a gesture of atonement that was deeply yearned for by the victims. He had been sent to Ireland by the Vatican to seek to repair the deep chasm in the church over pedophile priests.
“The wounds carried in Ireland as a result of this evil are deep and remind us of the wounds of the body of Christ. We think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane as he experienced his own crisis,” he stated.
“He, too, was overwhelmed with sorrow, betrayed and abandoned. Not only survivors of abuse and their family members, but many of the faithful and clergy throughout Ireland can echo our Lord's plaintive cry, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
“But today, through the saving power of the cross, we come together to share in each other's sorrows as well as our collective hope for the future.”
"Today was a day of liberation for me," said one of the eight victims, a 63-year-old, who spoke to the Reuters news agency.
"I never thought I'd live to see this day when the church gave full recognition for the horror that was there."