VATICAN CITY (AP) — Irish church officials are hoping that a meeting of Catholic families that is expected to bring Pope Francis to Ireland next year will help families regain trust in the church following the clerical sex abuse scandal.
Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said Thursday that young people in particular "have been very scandalized" about the decades of abuse and cover-up that have eroded the credibility of the church in Ireland.
Speaking at a Vatican press conference, Martin said he hoped the Aug. 21-26, 2018 World Meeting of Families would be a moment of renewal for the church and help Irish families overcome their fears.
The event would seek to "give new confidence to healthy family life and enable parents to have trust that their children can find a home in the church which is safe," he said.
After media reports exposed the scandal in the 1990s and 2000s, the Irish government launched several state fact-finding probes into the abuse and how church leaders for decades protected pedophiles and their own reputations at the expense of Ireland's children. The finding decimated the church's reputation and standing in the once-devoutly Roman Catholic nation.
Francis announced that Ireland would host the next family meeting when he closed out the 2015 edition in Philadelphia, signaling that the Vatican hoped enough time had passed for the wounds to begin healing.
In the meantime, Francis convened bishops for a second big conference on family life at the Vatican and wrote his controversial document "The Joy of Love," in which he outlined the pastoral challenges facing families today, including people living "nontraditional" civil unions, single-parent households and families with gay members.
In a letter officially launching the Irish meeting released Thursday, Francis said he hoped the document would be a text for reflection.
Asked how "nontraditional" ideas about families would be incorporated into the Irish conference, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the Vatican's laity and family office, said the meeting would take into consideration all types of families but would insist on the church's concept of marriage as a union between man and woman.
"These ideologies are not necessarily all compatible with the teachings of the church and the concept of marriage in the Catholic sense," he said.
Ireland in 2015 legalized gay marriage over the opposition of the church.
Francis is largely expected to attend the event, though confirmation won't come until closer to the date.