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Pope asks for forgiveness and rebukes Irish bishops for failing to act amid sex abuse crisis

2010-03-20

In the letter, Benedict XVI said he feels betrayed after bishops ignored victims rights and failed to apply Canon Law.

He criticises them for staying silent and for ignoring his order to investigate the allegations and help victims 4 years ago.

In fact, the letter is a response to two governmental reports published last year that found the Church in Ireland covered up thousands of child abuse cases that implicated members of the clergy.

Fr. Federico Lombardi
Vatican Spokesperson

“The Church lives in specific countries, and it must follow the laws of those countries. The bishops must respect the rules provided by the law. They must cooperate with the authorities following the rules as provided by law.”

The letter was presented at the Vatican’s press office. In the letter, Pope Benedict XVI had tough words for the priests and religious who are guilty of abusing children. He says they must now answer to God and the tribunals. In fact, he orders them to personally turn themselves in and cooperate with authorities.

But the focus of the letter was on the victims and their families. He asks them for forgiveness and says he’s deeply disturbed, ashamed and hurt by the situation, and says he will meet with victims in the future like he has on other occasions in the U.S and Australia.

In the letter, the pope also thanks those who in the dioceses to help victims and prevent sexual abuse in the Church.

Fr. Federico Lombardi
Vatican Spokesperson

“It’s a very profound letter, it’s very personal, very loyal with strong expressions. He also talks about the victims. He clearly expresses that he understands the suffering they’re enduring.”

The pope also says staying silent in order to protect the good name of the Church, is one of the contributing factors to the problem which he identifies in the letter.

In closing, Benedict XVI says he will send apostolic delegates to learn first hand what has happened in the diocese and seminaries in question. He also announced a national Mission to help bishops and priests reflect on the crisis.

JMB/MC/JVB