The founder of One in Four, an organization that supports victims of sexual abuse in Ireland, said the appointment of Pope Francis evoked “a spark of hope” in him.
The Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was named as the next Pope on Wednesday.
Colm O’Gorman, a victim of clerical abuse himself during his teen years, expressed optimism concerning the new Pontiff.
“There was a humility and a humanity about it that was intriguing and encouraging,” he said.
“We don’t know enough about this man yet but one would hope we are facing into a period of more humility, more humanity and more openness – that’s what we should at least hope for.”
He described the pope’s task as “enormous,” but said what was required was “not complex.”
“What he needs to do is acknowledge the truth. We need to see a frank, open and honest acknowledgment of the global cover-up of hundreds of thousands of children worldwide and the Vatican’s role in that.
“The organisation must subject itself to appropriate scrutiny and oversight and put in place meaningful child protection practice that is enforced across the world with the same vigour as that with which the cover-up was enforced. That’s incredibly important.”
Campaigner and abuse survivor Andrew Madden told the Irish Times he was surprised by the election of Pope Francis.
“He wasn’t somebody on my radar in terms of somebody who had commented on child sex abuse within the church or the church’s handling of it,” he said.
“We have to wait and see how he handles the issue going forward and what he has to say. It would be very odd if he didn’t acknowledge the issue. How he handles further allegations and members of the hierarchy involved in cover-ups will be one to watch.”
Marie Collins, a victim and campaigner for sexual abuse victims, said Pope Francis “appears to be a humble man," which was “very welcome.”
She said she will be interested to see what stance the new pontiff adopts on the issue of clerical sex abuse.
“We will have to see if he will follow his predecessor or make bishops accountable for their actions. He has a huge task in front of him. The child abuse crisis is still ongoing even if people want to think it has passed.”