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Monday, 22 April, 2002, 06:30 GMT 07:30 UK
Cardinal vows to fight sex abuse
Cardinal Law in Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross
Cardinal Law received a standing ovation
A Roman Catholic cardinal who has been under pressure to resign has acknowledged that the sex abuse scandal in the US is undermining the church and that more must be done to overcome the crisis.

This is a wake-up call for the Church

Cardinal Law

The Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law - who has been strongly criticised for failing to take tough action against offending priests - was appearing in public for the first time since Easter.

Before receiving a standing ovation, he told churchgoers "immediate and decisive changes" were needed.

His comments come ahead of a landmark Vatican meeting this week called by Pope John Paul II to discuss the situation with US cardinals.

They will be looking for guidance and backing on a wide range of issues, including whether the church should draw up a policy for reporting abuse claims to the police.

Complaints and protests

"This is a wake-up call for the Church," Cardinal Law said referring to the Rome gathering.

He also told worshippers before Sunday Mass at Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross that he wished he "could turn the clock back and undo the harm and hurt that have been caused to children, to families and others."

Demonstrators have been calling for Archbishop Law to go

Cardinal Law, who has come under the most sustained fire in the Church scandal for reassigning priests rather than defrocking them, said sexual abuse "is a very serious issue undermining the mission of the Church".

"As long as I am in a position to do so, I will work tirelessly to address this crisis and to underscore its severity, " he said.

More than 400 complaints have been lodged against priests in the Boston diocese alone.

Cardinal Law, who was once tipped to become the first American pope, was forced to cancel mass a week ago out of fear that protesters would disrupt it.

This Sunday, about three dozen protesters continued a call for his resignation.

Accusations of child molestation have been made in at least 16 other US dioceses including Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

The scandals are also a huge financial burden for the Church and there is talk that some archdioceses will be bankrupted as a result.

Church crisis
How can the Vatican restore trust in itself?

Catholic Church crisis

See also:

16 Apr 02 | Americas
US cardinal welcomes Pope talks
09 Apr 02 | Americas
Abuse claims dog US priests
04 Apr 02 | Americas
Vatican sued in sex abuse cases
06 Apr 02 | Americas
Accused US priest found dead
08 Apr 02 | Americas
US priests suspended over sex claims
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