The executive director of Amnesty International Ireland has written an open letter to Pope Francis describing how he was raped by a priest after the only other time a Pope visited Ireland.

Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, said the rapist was a priest who was ordained four months before the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1979.

O’Gorman was one of several people invited by The Irish Times to write an open letter to Pope Francis in advance of his visit next week.

O’Gorman recalls that he was 13 during Pope John Paul’s visit. He was an altar server who was heavily involved in the church and sang at Mass every Sunday.

He describes his overjoyed reaction when Pope John Paul told 300,000 young people in Galway that he loved the young people of Ireland.

Pope John Paul II at the Phoenix Park, Dublin, in 1979.

Pope John Paul II at the Phoenix Park, Dublin, in 1979.

O’Gorman wrote, “My heart nearly burst when I heard him say that. It was a time when people didn’t often tell us that we were loved, not in that way, and I believed him. I believed every word he said.

“It’s different now, though. Now when I hear that same voice say those same words I don’t feel that joy. Instead I feel terribly sad. Sad for that 13-year-old me, heartbroken and sick for him.

“You see, just over a year after that, I was raped for the first time by a priest. A priest who used my blind faith in the goodness of your institution to get into my home, take me away and repeatedly assault me.

“That priest had been ordained just four months before the visit, and your church knew then that he was a child abuser. He had sexually assaulted a group of boy scouts while a seminarian. The scouting association had barred him for life as a result, but your church made him a priest and then sent him off and let him abuse for years with impunity.”

O’Gorman goes on to describe how the impact of what the rapist priest did “nearly killed me.”

When the abuse finally ended three years later, he fled his home because he was so broken that he found it difficult to stay alive.

His letter adds, “If I hadn’t run, I don’t think I would have survived. I spent six months on the street, and was estranged from my family for nearly four years as a result of it all.”

His family played a big part helping him find the strength to come forward and report the abuse in 1995. His loving father, who died later the same year, taught him that truth, integrity, courage and standing for what he believe in mattered.

O’Gorman tells Pope Francis, “So, 23 years later, I still stand for truth. I think it’s time that you did the same…tell the truth. Admit the cover-up. Please.”

Separately, in an interview with the Star newspaper, O’Gorman called on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to hold Pope Francis to account over decades of clerical abuse when he is in Ireland on August 25 and 26 for the World Meeting of Families.

The priest accused of raping and sexually molesting O’Gorman and 28 other boys, Sean Fortune, was never tried and committed suicide in 1999 before any charges were proved against him.

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