Pope hopes letter to Irish on church abuse helps process of ‘repentance, healing and renewal’

By Nicole Winfield, AP
Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pope hopes letter to Irish helps healing

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI said Wednesday he hopes his upcoming letter to the Irish faithful on the sex abuse scandal in Ireland’s Catholic Church helps with “repentance, healing and renewal.”

Benedict told his weekly general audience Wednesday that he would sign the pastoral letter Friday and would send it to the faithful soon thereafter.

Speaking in English, Benedict acknowledged the Irish church had been “severely shaken” as a result of the crisis, and said he was “deeply concerned.”

“I ask all of you to read it (the letter) for yourselves, with an open heart and in a spirit of faith,” Benedict said. “My hope is that it will help in the process of repentance, healing and renewal.”

Benedict convened Ireland’s bishops to a special Vatican summit last month to discuss the fallout from the crisis. The meeting came before reports mounted about similar sex scandals in the Catholic Church in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

Three Irish government-ordered investigations — into the Dublin Archdiocese, the southeast Irish diocese of Ferns, and a defunct network of Catholic workhouse-style schools for poor children — have documented a shocking catalog of child abuse and church cover-ups from the 1930s to 1990s involving more than 15,000 children.

Several Irish bishops have agreed to resign, including two who stepped down on Christmas Day, but others have flatly refused. The pope, for his part, hasn’t accepted the resignation offers of three bishops implicated in Catholic abuse cover-ups in Dublin.

Benedict made no mention Wednesday of other clerical abuse scandals rocking the church in his native Germany or elsewhere. More than 250 former students of Catholic institutions in Germany have alleged physical or sexual abuse.

Some in Germany have been clamoring for Benedict to speak out. To date he hasn’t said a word in public about the issue, though he did discuss it in private last week with the head of the German bishops’ conference.

Associated Press Writer Daniela Petroff contributed to this report.

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