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Pope apologises for Irish sexual abuse

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 20 March 2010

Pope Benedict XVI has apologised to the victims of child abuse by clergy in Ireland. Keme Nzerem reports.

Pope addresses the faithful - Reuters

In a letter addressed to the people, bishops, priests and victims of abuse in Ireland, the Pope said: "You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry…I openly express the shame and remorse we all feel."

The Pope also announced a formal Vatican investigation of Irish Roman Catholic dioceses and seminaries involved in the abuse scandal.

The letter is the latest step in the Vatican's attempt to contain the damage as scandals over sexual abuse of children has rocked the Catholic communities in Ireland, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.

It is the first papal document to be devoted exclusively to paedophilia.

"I can only share in the dismay and sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way the Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them," the Pope said.

He criticised Irish bishops in particular for how they handled the abuse cases.

"It must be admitted that grave errors of judgement were made and failures of leadership occurred. All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness," he said.

"Only decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency will restore the respect and goodwill of the Irish people towards the Church to which we have consecrated our lives."

The apology letter was issued this morning by the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, at the morning mass at St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh.

It comes after the Murphy Report, published in November, condemned the Irish Church for "obsessively" concealing child abuse in the Dublin archdiocese from 1975 to 2004.

However, some victims do not think the apology went far enough.

The Pope did not mention abuses in any other countries, refer to calls for the radical restructuring of the Church in Ireland or the criticism that the abuses had been 'covered up' by the Church. He also did not address whether bishops implicated in the abuse should resign.

One in Four, a group representing victims led by executive director Maeve Lewis, said her first response was "deep disappointment".

"We feel the letter falls far short of addressing the concerns of the victims," she said.

Ireland's Cardinal Sean Brady should be sacked, said Catholic commentator Cristina Odone in an interview with Channel 4 News today.

While the Pope's response was "compassionate", Odone said she had been disappointed by the letter.

"One of my disappointments was he should have immediately asked for the resignation of Cardinal Brady," she said.

"To see Cardinal Brady reading that letter was an outrage."

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