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Sisters say sorry

WASHINGTON (CNS): The US branch of the Sisters of Mercy has issued an apology for how some members of their order in Ireland treated young women and girls entrusted to them in what were called “Magdalene laundries”.

The laundries were so named because many of the young women were sent away to live at convents to wash and iron laundry as a penance for sins real or imagined – such as giving birth out of wedlock or acting flirtatiously – with the laundry work analogous to Mary Magdalene’s tears washing Jesus’ feet.

The Magdalene laundries flourished in Ireland throughout the 1900s – the last was closed in 1996. It was “a time in the history of the Catholic Church and religious orders of which we are not proud”, said the apology from the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.

“As women religious committed to mercy and justice throughout the world, we grieve with all victims of the Magdalene laundries and pray that they experience God’s comfort and healing in their lives,” the statement said.

“We are deeply saddened to hear the stories of some of the women who were so obviously hurt by the entirety of what happened to them. We sincerely apologise for any and all injustices that may have occurred,” it added.

The Mercy Sisters were just one of many orders of women religious who ran Magdalene laundries in Ireland.

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