Page last updated at 21:59 GMT, Friday, 11 December 2009

Irish Catholic Church shake-up 'likely' after abuse

Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict was said to be deeply disturbed and distressed by the report

There is likely to be a big shake-up in the Irish Catholic Church following a damning child abuse report, the Dublin archbishop said after meeting the Pope.

Diarmuid Martin made the comments after he and the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, attended Friday's meeting in Rome.

Pope Benedict XVI was "disturbed and distressed" by the report's findings, according to a Vatican statement.

He will write to the Irish people about the abuse and the Vatican's response.

The Murphy report, which was published two weeks ago, found church leaders covered up clerical child abuse in the Dublin archdiocese for decades.

'Pope outraged'

Father Federico Lombardi, Papal spokesman, reads the statement from the Vatican

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

After the meeting, the Vatican issued the statement which said the Pope shared the "outrage, betrayal and shame" felt by Irish people over the cover-up.

"The Holy Father was deeply disturbed and distressed by its contents," it added.

"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."

'Significant reorganisation'

The report found that four consecutive archbishops prioritised the church's reputation above the welfare of children who were being physically and sexually abused by paedophile priests.

Their attempts to avoid scandal at all costs meant that abusers were moved between parishes, but were left free to repeat their crimes on other children.

If the Pope considers that some of the Irish bishops have not been doing their duty properly, then it would be indicated that they should resign

David Willie, BBC Rome Correspondent

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.

After his meeting with the Pope, the archbishop told reporters: 'I think that we are looking at a very significant reorganisation of the Church in Ireland."

The BBC's correspondent in Rome, David Willie, said there had been no confirmation of speculation that there would be resignations of Irish bishops.

'Inexcusable actions'

However, he said that given the tone of Friday's meeting and the "very strong language used by the Vatican to describe the Pope's emotions on finding out what had happened in Ireland" he thought it was very likely that heads would roll.

"Vatican diplomacy is quite sophisticated," he explained.

Bishop Murray
Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray is in Rome considering his position

"If the Pope considers that some of the Irish bishops have not been doing their duty properly, then it would be indicated that they should resign."

One of the bishops whose conduct was criticised in the Murphy report, Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray, has been in Rome for the past five days, discussing his future.

The report censured him for the way he dealt with a paedophile priest when he was an auxiliary bishop in the Dublin archdiocese, describing his actions as "inexcusable".

Days before he left to meet the Pope, Cardinal Brady said the under pressure bishop was "considering his position" but added that he was confident Donal Murray would "do the right thing".

Victim support

Meanwhile, Ireland's Catholic bishops have pledged financial support to survivors of institutional abuse.

The announcement followed a meeting with survivor groups in Maynooth, County Kildare.

Victims' representatives said it was a step forward, but they were frustrated by the length of time it has taken to get to this stage.

They added that any similar process in Northern Ireland must be fast-tracked.

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