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Monday, March 30, 1998 Published at 02:11 GMT 03:11 UK

World: Europe

Catholic order apologises publicly for abuse
image: [ The Brothers, as they are known in Ireland, were founded in 1802 ]
The Brothers, as they are known in Ireland, were founded in 1802

An influential Irish Roman Catholic religious order involved in teaching generations of youngsters has issued an unprecedented high-profile public apology for sexual and other abuse inflicted over years in its institutions.

The congregation of the Christian Brothers in Ireland has taken out half-page advertisements in Irish newspapers admitting that some victims' complaints have been ignored.

The admission follows a number of prosecutions initiated against members of the order, other Irish religious societies and Catholic clergy in recent years over sex and other crimes, often dating back decades.

[ image:  ]
The Christian Brothers have traditionally been associated with boys' schools in Ireland, for many years playing a central role in the country's education system.

At one stage the order ran more than 100 schools and eight orphanages. The apology refers to harsh punishment dealt out to pupils and to sexual abuse.

Telephone helplines

[ image: Well-established institution]
Well-established institution
It listed telephone numbers on both sides of the Irish border to provide help on a confidential basis for any pupils who experienced ill-treatment or abuse at the hands of its members.

According to reports, the apology was decided by leaders with only a minority of the 500 serving Christian Brothers indicating concern or opposition.

"In a way we are putting our hands up and saying this happened. It is painful for all of us, that cannot be denied. But we believe it is worthwhile,"a spokesman at the order's Dublin headquarters is quoted as saying.

"The objective of bringing about reconciliation and healing is worth the price we have to pay.

"We are trying to create an environment where healing and reconciliation can take place and where people who have been hurt can be helped to leave that hurt behind them.

"We want to acknowledge the fact that people have been hurt, listen to what they have to say and try to respond."

As well as Ireland, the order is also active in other countries.

According to reports, in Newfoundland, Canada, nine of the lay brothers were convicted of abuse-related crimes at an orphanage.

The order's founder, Irishman Edmund Rice, was declared "blessed" by Pope John Paul II in 1996.

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