ARCHBISHOP Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has rebuked those in the Catholic Church who were "all too slow" in recognising the extent of the "criminal abuse of children" by priests.
He was speaking at a Mass to mark the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Child Safeguarding and Protection Office in the archdiocese of Dublin.
At a ceremony in the Pro-Cathedral attended by 400 child safeguarding representatives from parishes across Dublin, as well as priests and representatives of survivors of abuse, Dr Martin said the church needed to do more to reach out to survivors of clerical abuse.
The Archbishop urged the church to create "an open door and a safe space for those survivors who still fear telling their story and who still live alone with their anguish".
Speaking to the Irish Independent, the Archbishop explained that from his meetings with survivors, he realised that some of them "are in a lonely place".
"Very often they have nobody to talk to – they are not a member of an association. They were abused in a way that the pressure was put on them to keep it secret."
He said they would like to have a space where they could come together, meet one another and support one another.
During the Mass, prayers were said for those victims of abuse who could not cope and had died by suicide.
The church hasn't sent out "a sufficient word of welcome to those who have been abused", Dr Martin added.
He also had strong words of criticism for those who sought to protect the institution and failed the church's children.
"People were angered by the church's response. The institution in protecting its own, failed those children," he said.
In further comments he warned: "We give thanks for the work achieved by all those associated with the Diocesan Child Safeguarding and Protection Office. But that work is not over. The sexual abuse of children continues in our world.
"Sexual predators will seek out our weak points and break through the weaknesses of our systems. We cannot afford to let our guard down."
Survivor of abuse, Marie Collins, told the Irish Independent the child-protection service in Dublin diocese had "good strong child protection measures in place" but added "there is still a lot of work to be done – we can always make sure it is safer".