The 18 bishops attending an extraordinary general meeting in NUI Maynooth to discuss the fallout from the damning Murphy Report into cover-ups of paedophile priests in the archdiocese of Dublin said last night they welcomed Pope Benedict's intent to issue a special pastoral to Catholics in Ireland on "the very serious situation prevailing in the Irish Church".
"Bishops have been listening to the widespread and justifiable anger and frustration from survivors, priests and laity across their dioceses," they said in a statement.
"Bishops recognise that, in the critical area of safeguarding children, people want accountability and transparency in terms of policy and procedures."
But, amid some confusion, there were indications last night that the bishops have not completed their preparations for the Rome summit and that a second meeting will be needed to co-ordinate their strategy.
Cardinal Sean Brady said he was not surprised at the attendance yesterday of Bishop of Kildare Jim Moriarty, who has offered his resignation to Pope Benedict for being implicated in the Murphy Report during his period as an auxiliary bishop in Dublin.
But a defiant Bishop of Galway, Martin Drennan, who avoided talking to journalists, heard a message from protester Brendan Butler read out by a priest's secretary to the meeting saying that as former Dublin auxiliary he had become "a divisive figure" and it was "time for him to go".
Last night Cardinal Brady told the Irish Independent that he was "happy" with the progress at yesterday's meeting but he apologised for the media misapprehension that Bishop Drennan had "boycotted" the meeting.
The Bishops' Conference said that at their December meeting on the Murphy fallout they had asked their independent watchdog, the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, to explore with statutory authorities, North and South, ways of ensuring that the church's policies and practices in relation to the safeguarding of children represented best practice.
During a lunch break the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, was accused by victim Kevin Flanagan of covering up for Cardinal Desmond Connell, apart from one comment on the release of the Murphy report on November 26.
The Archbishop replied that he had been calling it a crime and had called on five former Dublin auxiliary bishops to take responsibility for the culture of secrecy in the archdiocese that put the honour of the church above the welfare of children.
Earlier, Fr Eamonn Martin, Secretary to the Bishops' Conference, was sent out to the gate to welcome the protesters and ask what message they had.
But security kept the protesters outside the main gate and well away from the meeting.
Bishop of Killaloe Willie Walsh told reporters that he knew of no resolution being tabled by the Irish bishops requesting Pope Benedict to end obligatory priestly celibacy and allow for the admission of women to the ministry.
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