Page last updated at 14:27 GMT, Friday, 11 December 2009

Pope Benedict shares Irish 'child abuse outrage'

Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict said he shared Irish outrage over a damning abuse report

The Pope shares the "outrage, betrayal and shame" felt by Irish people over a report that said clerical child abuse was covered-up, the Vatican has said.

In a statement, issued after Pope Benedict XVI met Irish Church leaders on Friday, the Pope was said to be "disturbed and distressed".

A report found church leaders covered up child abuse in Dublin for decades.

He will write a pastoral letter to the Irish people about sexual abuse and the Vatican's response to the crisis.

"The Holy Father was deeply disturbed and distressed by its contents," the Vatican statement said.

"He wishes once more to express his profound regret at the actions of some members of the clergy who have betrayed their solemn promises to God, as well as the trust placed in them by the victims and their families, and by society at large."

The Pope summoned the Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, to Rome after the Vatican was criticised for failing to respond to the Murphy inquiry.

The Holy See takes very seriously the central issues raised by the Report, including questions concerning the governance of local Church leaders with ultimate responsibility for the pastoral care of children.

The Holy Father intends to address a Pastoral Letter to the faithful of Ireland in which he will clearly indicate the initiatives that are to be taken in response to the situation.

Finally, His Holiness encourages all those who have dedicated their lives in generous service to children to persevere in their good works in imitation of Christ the Good Shepherd.

Extract from Papal statement

The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, accompanied the cardinal.

The Murphy report, which was published two weeks ago, laid bare a culture of concealment within the Dublin archdiocese and found that four consecutive archbishops prioritised the church's reputation above the welfare of children who were being physically and sexually abused.

Instead, paedophile priests were moved from parish to parish, free to repeat their actions on new victims.

Immediately after the publication, Cardinal Brady said he was "deeply sorry and ashamed" at the abuse of children described in the report.

Archbishop Martin was praised by victims for his willingness to co-operate with the inquiry which was ordered by the Irish government, unlike his four predecessors who had failed to report paedophile priests to the civil authorities.

The Murphy Commission said the Pope's ambassador to Ireland, Papal Nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, had failed to respond to extracts of its draft report, referring to him and his office, which it had forwarded to him.

The papal envoy had complained that the inquiry did not go through the appropriate diplomatic channels in its approach to him, but Archbishop Leanza was then forced to defend himself against allegations that he had treated the investigation with contempt.

Three days ago, he was summoned to a meeting with the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheal Martin, who told the papal nuncio that the Irish government expected the Vatican to respond substantially and comprehensively to the questions raised by the Murphy Commission.

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