The Catholic Church in Ireland has come under fire after a researcher discovered a mass grave filled with the bodies of 796 babies near a former orphanage and home for unwed mothers.
The home, run by the Bon Secours nuns from 1925-1961 in County Galway, saw the hundreds of children dying of malnourishment and neglect, as well as contagious diseases like measles, tuberculosis and pneumonia, reported The Daily Mail.
The babies were put in what was once a septic tank, with a simple shroud and no coffins, said researcher Catherine Corless, who discovered the death records, according to reports.
A health board report in 1944 revealed the conditions of the home, The Daily Mail reports. A 13-month-old boy was described as “miserable, emaciated child with voracious appetite and no control over bodily functions and probably mentally defective,” and 31 other children in the same room were described as “poor babies, emaciated and not thriving.”
The gravesite was discovered by locals in 1975, and before Ms. Corless‘ research, they believed the bones belong to victims of the mid-century famine, reported The Associated Press. A statue of the Virgin Mary was erected and the grass was kept cut in respect for the dead.
Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary has said he will work to organize a fundraising effort for a plaque to memorialize the 796 dead babies. However, Ms. Corless and other local activists are pushing for a state-funded site excavation and investigation, the AP reported.