Minister asks Church to pay reparations for Tuam Home in letter to Pope

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Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone has said the Church should willingly pay reparations for what happened in the Tuam Mother and Baby Home.

Minister Zappone met with Pope Francis on Saturday while he was in Ireland for the World Meeting of Families.

She has said that she raised the issue of what happened in the Tuam Home with him both in person and in a letter.

In the letter she says the church must accept responsibility for the role it played in the deaths of up to 796 children buried at the Mother and Baby Home.

“It is my strong conviction that given the role of the Church in this shameful chapter of recent Irish history it must play a practical role in addressing the hurt and damage,” said Minister Zappone in her letter, the contents of which have been released on Monday.

“I believe that the church should contribute substantially to the cost of whatever option is decided by the government.  This should be done willingly, unconditionally and quickly.  Nothing less will demonstrate remorse.”

On Sunday the Pope said that he would study a memo on the Tuam Home given to him by Minister Zappone.

According to the Irish Times Minister Zappone said that when she spoke with Pope Francis there was a “clear sense of recognition” on his face when she talked about Tuam.

While the Pope was giving his mass in Phoenix Park on Sunday a silent vigil took place in Tuam attended by hundreds of people.

A memorial was erected, made from children’s shoes and candles, and the names of all 796 children and ten women who died at the Tuam Home were read aloud.

Speaking with reporters on the plane back to Rome, Pope Francis said that it was painful for him to hear of what happened in Tuam.

“I had never heard of these mothers, they call it the laundromat of women where an unwed woman is pregnant and goes into these hospitals, I don’t know what they call them, schools, run by the nuns and then they gave children to the people in adoption,” he said.

The letter given to the Pope asserts that there are a “significant number of children’s remains there”, referring to the site of the Mother and Baby Home.

Catherine Corless’ investigation of historical records found death certificates for 796 children, but no burial records.

The Minister goes on in her letter to list the measures the government has taken to assess what to do with the Tuam Home site, such as the Commission of Investigation currently looking at Tuam and other Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland.

It also mentions that locals in the area were surveyed to see what their opinions were.

However that process has been the subject of criticism as it claimed to show that local opinion largely preferred leaving the site undisturbed.

But at a public meeting in Tuam between local residents and Minister Zappone last month, popular opinion overwhelmingly supported a forensic investigation and respectful exhumation.

The survey was conducted by Galway County Council on behalf of the government.