Ireland seeks church reparations for mass baby, toddler burials

LONDON (AP) — An Irish government Cabinet minister has told Pope Francis that the Catholic Church “should contribute substantially” to funding reparations for survivors of a former church-run orphanage where a mass grave of children’s remains was discovered.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone raised the issue with the pope.

Church-run homes in Ireland housed orphans, unmarried pregnant women and their babies for most of the 20th century. The institutions have been subject to intense public scrutiny since a local historian in 2014 tracked down death certificates for nearly 800 children who died at the former Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, County Galway — but could only find a burial record for one child.

Investigators later found a mass grave containing remains of babies and young children in an underground sewage structure on the grounds of the home, which was run by an order of Catholic nuns and closed in 1961. DNA analysis of some remains showed the dead ranged from 35 weeks to 3-years-old, most were buried in the 1950s.

“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,” Zappone wrote. “I believe that the church should contribute substantially to the cost of whatever option is decided by the government….Nothing less will demonstrate remorse.”

Hundreds of protesters marched through the town of Tuam, reciting the names of the 796 babies and young children who died while residents of the home.

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