Bishop Eamonn Walsh, who has been appointed as apostolic administrator to replace Bishop Brendan Comiskey of Ferns, has pledged to co-operate in any way possible to establish truth, reconciliation and healing for the victims of Fr Sean Fortune. In a statement, Bishop Walsh said: "I have accepted the responsibilities as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Ferns and look forward to working with the people and priests of the Diocese of Ferns in dealing with the crucially important issues which have emerged and also assisting in any way I can in establishing truth, reconciliation and healing." "In my caretaker capacity I will fully co-operate with whatever instrument of inquiry is deemed most appropriate in our search for the truth, " he continued. "It is only when the truth has been established that all of us can move on from the crimes that were committed and the responses made." Bishop Walsh said that while he had no first hand information of the abuse cases in the Ferns diocese, "it is clear that young people were terribly abused by priests and they are understandably still dealing with the anger and pain this breach of trust has caused them. "I wish to offer my sincere apologies to all victims of clerical abuse in the Diocese of Ferns and to their families who have suffered and continue to suffer. I can only assure them of my availability to meet with me if they so wish. "I also assure the victims and their families and the people of the diocese - all of whom have been damaged in different ways - of my best efforts to address the questions now being asked." "May God strengthen and sustain us all to face the challenges which lie ahead" he concluded. Bishop Walsh has been an auxiliary bishop in Dublin since 1990, and will stay on in this role alongside his new appointment. He is a leading figure in the Irish churches' reaction plan to child abuse scandals involving clergy and religious run institutions. Bishop Walsh is chairman of the Bishops' Commission on Child Abuse which decided last year to set up a special Child Protection Office and a Bishops' Committee on Child Protection which he now chairs. It also commissioned the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland to conduct a Research Project on Child Sexual Abuse, the findings of which are not expected to be known until early next year. Last year, Bishop Walsh admitted that the perception that the Irish hierarchy had been caught "on the back foot" by the eruption of child abuse scandals was accurate. "It was as if 40 years of bad debts all came together" he said, but claimed that a belief that the bishops were "still asleep and doing nothing" was wrong.
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