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Irish Archbishop welcomes goverment inquiry into mass graves in Tuam

The site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam Mother and Baby Home - AP

(Vatican Radio)  Ireland’s Catholic Church has expressed shock and horror at the extent of the number of children buried in the graveyard at a former home in Tuam run by the Bon Secours Sisters.  In a written statement the  Archbishop of Tuam, Michael Neary, said  he welcomes the announcement by the Irish government that it will investigate the burial arrangements for children in Mother and Baby homes. 

The announcement comes after fresh research and media reports showing that nearly 800 children died in the Tuam residential home run by the Bon Secours sisters between 1925 and its closure in 1961.  The home sheltered unwed pregnant women who were sent there to give birth.   A local researcher said the bodies of the children were buried in a sewage tank in the grounds of the former home.  Archbishop Neary pledged to cooperate fully with the government enquiry but also called upon the Bon Secours Sisters to do the same in the interests of the common good.  He said "regardless of the time lapse involved this is a matter of great public concern which ought to be acted upon urgently." 

Please find a copy of the full statement issued by the Archbishop of Tuam, Michael Neary, welcoming the government announcement that it will set up an inquiry.

“I was greatly shocked, as we all were, to learn of the extent of the numbers of children buried in the grave-yard in Tuam. I was made aware of the magnitude of this situation by media reporting and historical research. I am horrified and saddened to hear of the large number of deceased children involved and this points to a time of great suffering and pain for the little ones and their mothers.

I can only begin to imagine the huge emotional wrench which the mothers suffered in giving up their babies for adoption or by witnessing their death. Many of these young vulnerable women would already have been rejected by their families. The pain and brokenness which they endured is beyond our capacity to understand. It is simply too difficult to comprehend their helplessness and suffering as they watched their beloved child die.

Regardless of the time lapse involved this is a matter of great public concern which ought to be acted upon urgently. As the diocese did not have any involvement in the running of the home in Tuam we do not have any material relating to it in our archives. I understand that the material which the Bon Secours Sisters held, as managers of the Mother and Baby Home was handed over to Galway County Council and the health authorities in 1961.

I welcome the announcement today by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Mr. Charlie Flanagan, TD to establish a Cross-Departmental examination for the burial arrangements of Children in Mother and Baby Homes. This will have the legal authority to examine the situation and to determine the truth. While the Archdiocese of Tuam will cooperate fully nonetheless there exists a clear moral imperative on the Bon Secours Sisters in this case to act upon their responsibilities in the interests of the common good.

The Diocese will continue to work with the Sisters and the local community to provide a suitable commemorative prayer based memorial service and plaque and to ensure that the deceased and their families will never be forgotten.

It will be a priority for me, in cooperation with the families of the deceased, to seek to obtain a dignified re-interment of the remains of the children in consecrated ground in Tuam.

May the Lord’s infinite mercy console all who have suffered and bring healing to their loved ones.”

05/06/2014