Saturday, January 23, 2010

Irish bishops welcome Vatican child abuse summit plan

Ireland's bishops on Friday welcomed Pope Benedict XVI's plan for a Vatican summit next month to chart a way forward over a child sex abuse scandal that has shaken the country.

The Pope has summoned Irish bishops to a February 15-16 meeting to address the aftermath of revelations that Church authorities covered up for paedophile priests in the mainly Catholic country for three decades.

In a statement issued after an all-day meeting the bishops said the Pope's request was made "in the context of the very serious situation that prevails in the Irish church".

The pope already met on December 11 with Ireland's two most senior Roman Catholic churchmen, primate of all Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady and Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, following a shock government report on the scandal in the Dublin archdiocese.

The report by judge Yvonne Murphy said the church had carried out a cover-up to avoid damaging its reputation and assets. The findings caused widespread shock in Ireland.

One priest admitted to sexually abusing over 100 children, while another accepted that he had abused on a fortnightly basis over 25 years.

The bishops said they had been "listening to the widespread and justifiable anger and frustration" from victims, priests and laity across their dioceses.

"Bishops recognize that, in the critical area of safeguarding children, people want accountability and transparency in terms of policy and procedures."

The meeting also discussed preparations for the Pope's plan for a pastoral letter to the "faithful in Ireland" and the "follow-up listening and consultation process which will take place".

Since the Murphy report, four bishops have resigned but pressure remains on other prelates and senior churchmen to quit over the scandal.

As the bishops met, a Catholic lay organization called for the immediate resignation of all bishops implicated in the sexual abuse cover-up.

The Voice of the Faithful Ireland (VOTFI) said the moral authority of the papacy in Ireland, and of Catholic bishops, was likely to collapse if the papal letter to Ireland "does not squarely address the issue of the widespread cover up by bishops of the outrage of clerical child sexual abuse".

It said the "reluctance of implicated bishops to resign", and the failure of the papacy to declare that the cover-up would be investigated "have so seriously damaged the moral prestige of the office of Catholic bishops, and of the papacy, that recovery may already be impossible".
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