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Pope 'shock' at Irish sex abuse

'Effective strategies' for future, Benedict tells bishops

11 December, 15:26
Pope 'shock' at Irish sex abuse (ANSA) - Vatican City, December 11 - Pope Benedict XVI on Friday vowed to get to the bottom of the latest child sex abuse scandal to hit the Irish Catholic Church and make sure abuse can never happen again.

Speaking out for the first time in the wake of November's Murphy Report, the pope said he was "shocked and anguished" by the cover-up of decades of abuse in Dublin.

The Church will assess this "grave issue" with "the utmost attention" to try to establish how "these disgraceful events" occurred, a Vatican statement said after Benedict met with Irish bishops.

Benedict, the statement said, "desires once more to express his deep regret for the actions committed by some members of the clergy who betrayed their solemn promises to God as well as the trust placed in them by the victims, their families, and society in general".

"The Holy Father shares the sense of outrage, betrayal and shame felt by so many of the faithful in Ireland and joins them in prayer at this difficult time for the life of the Church".

The pope asked Catholics in Ireland and around the world to pray for all those affected by these "hateful crimes".

He vowed "to find the best way to develop effective and sure strategies to prevent (such events) recurring".

The pope discussed the Murphy Report with Cardinal Sean Brady, head of the Irish Church, and the archbishop of Dublin, Msgr Diarmuid Martin.

The papal nuncio (ambassador) in Ireland, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, and the heads of the relevant departments of the Roman Curia were also present, the Vatican statement confirmed.

There was no immediate indication that any bishops might be asked to tender their resignations, as the Irish media has speculated over the past week.

But the Vatican statement noted that one of the crucial aspects of the report was the role played by the leaders of the Irish church, "who bear the ultimate responsibility for the pastoral care of children".

The Murphy report, released November 26, found that four former archbishops of Dublin - three now dead and one retired - failed to report child sex abuse to the police from the 1960 to the 1980s.

It listed 320 people who complained of abuse between 1974 and 2004 and said a further 130 complaints against priests in Dublin had been made since May 2004.

The archdiocese only started notifying civil authorities in 1995, it found.

In the wake of the report, the head of the Irish Survivors of Child Abuse group urged Benedict to go to Ireland and apologise for his clergy's behaviour.

The Murphy report is the second of two detailing abuse this year. In May the Ryan report published records of 70 years of abuse at orphanages and industrial schools run by Catholic religious orders across Ireland.

In June Benedict asked Irish bishops to make every effort to ''establish the truth'' and ensure ''justice for everyone''.

He also stressed that measures put in place to prevent abuse from happening again must be "fully applied" and all efforts made to help "bring healing to the survivors of abuse".

Ireland, a nation that once looked to the Church for leadership, has seen increasing numbers turn from it.

Calls for criminal cases against priests have been made by the country's top politicians including President Mary McAleese.

YEARS OF SCANDAL IN FOUR COUNTRIES. Since the mid-1990s the Catholic Church has been hit by child abuse scandals in the United States, Australia and Canada as well as Ireland.

The Church says some 80% of the estimated 5,000 priests involved acted in the US, where huge settlements have been made to victims.

In April 2008 Pope Benedict made a six-day tour of the US, visiting Washington and New York but not Boston, the epicentre of America's clergy sex abuse scandal.

However, he met and prayed with six Boston victims in Washington, saying ''no words'' could convey his shock and regret about the abuse.

During the visit, victims' groups reiterated their criticism of the Church's treatment of former Boston archbishop Cardinal Bernard Law who resigned in December 2002 when unsealed court records revealed he had moved paedophile priests among church assignments without notifying parishioners.

After his resignation, he was transferred to Rome where he now holds several authoritative posts including archpriest of St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome.

The abuse scandal led to the bankruptcy of several US dioceses including Washington, Arizona and California.

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