The Bishop of Cork and Ross, Fintan Gavin has said he welcomes the publication of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes final report, which he says "describes a very sad chapter in our Irish history".
In a statement issued today, Bishop Gavin offered an apology and said he wished to "acknowledge the part played by the Church" in contributing to a culture of "fear, judgement and secrecy".
"Through a culture of fear, judgement and secrecy, women who were pregnant felt isolated and abandoned and had nowhere to turn but to these institutions.
"As I read the courageous testimonies of the women and their now adult children who have shared their story with the Commission, I feel a sense of shame and embarrassment for how as a Church and a society we failed so often to respond compassionately to their needs.
"My first thoughts today are with all those women who were residents in mother and baby homes and with their children.
"As Bishop, I want to acknowledge the part played by the Church in contributing to this culture of judgement and secrecy which at times showed so little compassion or respect for the women and their babies.
"They were treated as second-class citizens.
"I believe that it is only in acknowledging the truth of this reality and the hurt and pain experienced that we can begin the journey of healing," he said.
Bishop Gavin thanked Judge Yvonne Murphy and the Commission staff for a "clear and comprehensive report".
"They have done a great service to society and to the Church in helping us to know the truth about our past," he said.
"As the former residents and their children try and piece together their personal history, I am aware that some of that information is contained in church baptism records.
"I appeal to our legislators to find ways so that birth and baptism record information can be legally shared with compassion and sensitivity with those to whom it rightly belongs – while taking into account the complexities and challenges involved," he continued.
He apologised and asked for forgiveness.
The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes report published yesterday shows that an estimated 9,000 children died in the institutions under investigation.