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Pope's apology to Irish sex abuse victims: Key excerpts

Pope Benedict XVI has apologised to victims of child sex abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland.

Below are key excerpts from his letter.

Click here to read the letter in full.

TO THE ABUSE VICTIMS AND THEIR FAMILIES

"You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated.

"Many of you found that, when you were courageous enough to speak of what happened to you, no one would listen. Those of you who were abused in residential institutions must have felt that there was no escape from your sufferings.

"It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel."

TO THOSE CLERGY WHO ABUSED CHILDREN

"You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals."

TO THE BISHOPS

"It cannot be denied that some of you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse. Serious mistakes were made in responding to allegations.

"I recognize how difficult it was to grasp the extent and complexity of the problem, to obtain reliable information and to make the right decisions in the light of conflicting expert advice.

"Nevertheless, it must be admitted that grave errors of judgement were made and failures of leadership occurred. All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness."

TO THE CLERGY OF IRELAND

"I know that many of you are disappointed, bewildered and angered by the way these matters have been handled by some of your superiors.

"Yet, it is essential that you co-operate closely with those in authority and help to ensure that the measures adopted to respond to the crisis will be truly evangelical, just and effective."

ON WHY IT HAPPENED

"Certainly, among the contributing factors we can include: inadequate procedures for determining the suitability of candidates for the priesthood and the religious life; insufficient human, moral, intellectual and spiritual formation in seminaries and novitiates; a tendency in society to favour the clergy and other authority figures; and a misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church and the avoidance of scandal, resulting in failure to apply existing canonical penalties and to safeguard the dignity of every person.

"Urgent action is needed to address these factors, which have had such tragic consequences in the lives of victims and their families, and have obscured the light of the Gospel to a degree that not even centuries of persecution succeeded in doing."

ON THE FUTURE

"The task you now face is to address the problem of abuse that has occurred within the Irish Catholic community, and to do so with courage and determination.

"No one imagines that this painful situation will be resolved swiftly. Real progress has been made, yet much more remains to be done.

"In order to recover from this grievous wound, the Church in Ireland must first acknowledge before the Lord and before others the serious sins committed against defenceless children."



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