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Pope questions Irish bishops over abuse scandal


Pope Benedict XVI summoned Ireland's Roman Catholic bishops to the Vatican on Monday to discuss how to respond to revelations that the Irish church covered up decades of child abuse by priests. Some 30 Irish bishops will attend the two-day talks on Monday and Tuesday.

"This is not just a cosmetic exercise," the Bishop of Clogher Joseph Duffy told reporters on Sunday.

The prelates will acknowledge the "failure on the part of all of us" to be vigilant against abuse, as well as "the enormous injustice and cruelty" inflicted on the victims, he said.

Q&A: Correspondent Sabina Castelfranco in Rome 15/02/2010 - by Philip Turle Listen

"The point is to discuss a sort of plan of action on how to deal with this," says RFI's correspondent in Rome, Sabina Castelfranco.

"It's to explain what happened, most likely to apologise, and to decide who in the church hierarchy, if anybody, needs to be removed."

Four of Ireland's top bishops have offered their resignations since the findings were made public. Only one has so far been accepted by the Pope.

Victim support groups in Ireland this week addressed an open letter to the Pope calling for the resignation of all bishops implicated in covering up abuse.

However, this latest meeting will not focus on further resignations, according to Bishop Duffy, "because that is not our prerogative".

At a mass ahead of Monday's talks, the Vatican's Secretary of State Tarcisco Bertone described the scandal as a "hard and humiliating challenge," which he said could be overcome by faith.

Bertone called the abuse committed by priests "execrable".

According to the Murphy Commission's findings, published in November, church authorities in Dublin - Ireland's largest archdiocese - avoided investigating allegations of paedophilia by priests through fear of public scandal and costly law suits.

In December the Pope met Ireland's two most senior Catholic churchmen, Primate of All-Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady and Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.

Afterward Benedict said he shared "the outrage, betrayal and shame felt by so many of the faithful in Ireland [over] these heinous crimes".

The Pope is understood to be drafting a letter to the Catholics of Ireland that will outline the Church's response to the scandal.

This letter would be the first of its kind relating specifically to child sex abuse within the Catholic church, Sabina Castelfranco points out.

Repeated revelations of child abuse have rocked the Catholic church in recent months following major scandals in the United States, Germany and Australia.