Embattled Catholic Primate of All Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady, who was alerted to - and failed to stop - the abuse perpetuated by notorious pedophile Brendan Smyth in the 1970's, has publicly asked forgiveness for himself and the Church for failing all abuse victims yesterday.

In a homily at a Mass in Dublin during the 50th International Eucharistic Congress Brady said he felt 'deep shame' at his failings.

'May God forgive us for the times when we as individuals and as a Church failed to seek out and care for those little ones who were frightened, alone and in pain because someone was abusing them.

'That we did not always respond to your cries with the concern of the Good Shepherd is a matter of deep shame. We lament the burdens of the painful memories you carry. We pray for healing and peace for those whose suffering continues.

'I want to take this opportunity of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress to apologize for the times when some of us were blind to your fear, deaf to your cries and silent in response to your pain.'

According to the Irish Times Brady was referring to a large granite 'healing stone' unveiled at the congress opening ceremony on Sunday, which he said he hoped might become a symbol of conversion, healing and hope.

'I hope it will become a symbol of a Church that has learned from the mistakes of the past and strives to become a model for the care and well-being of children,' Brady said.

'What this stone represents, what has happened in the Church in Ireland and in other places in the world, is a stark warning to all that there can be no passing by on the other side, no room for half-heartedness in our care for the vulnerable and the young.'

The stone will reportedly serve as a reminder of those children and young people who were hurt by a Church that first 'betrayed their trust and then failed to respond adequately' to their pain said Brady, who has been strongly criticized for failing to act when he was informed of serious allegations against Smyth.

'Every moral choice we make, no matter how small, has consequences. The smallest act of kindness can bring good far beyond our expectations. The smallest act of selfishness can contribute to a wider culture of evil and death that has harmful consequences far beyond our intentions.'

The prayer dedication on the granite stone reads: 'Lord, we are so sorry for what some of us did to your children: treated them so cruelly, especially, in their hour of need. We have left them with a lifelong suffering. This was not your plan for them or us. Please help us to help them. Guide us, Lord, Amen.'

Around 12,500 pilgrims attended the opening ceremony event at the congress in Dublin, but a crowd of up to 20,000 people had been expected.

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