The head of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has apologized for his handling of a child sex abuse scandal 35 years ago.
Cardinal Sean Brady chose to issue a very public apology in his St. Patrick's Day sermon in the cathedral in Armagh, in Northern Ireland. Speaking to journalists afterwards, he explained.
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"I apologized to those who have suffered as a result of abuse in the past and particularly, I apologized to those who due to my failures in the past have suffered," he said.
Cardinal Brady's apology centers on the case of pedophile priest, Father Brendan Smyth, who was arrested, tried and convicted in 1994 of abusing and raping young boys and girls in Ireland as well as in the United States. Smyth died in a military prison in Ireland in 1997.
It's been revealed that Sean Brady, then a junior church official, knew of Smyth's abuse in 1975. He was involved in an investigation into abuse allegations and met with two of Smyth's young victims. Brady did not tell the police and the two young boys were instead told to sign a secrecy oath.
At the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI said he was deeply concerned about the crisis. Speaking before a weekly general audience, the pope said he would send a pastoral letter to Ireland's Roman Catholics about the scandal.
"I ask all of you to read it for yourselves with an open heart and in a spirit of faith," said Pope Benedict XVI. "My hope is that it will help in the process of repentance, healing and renewal."
Child and sex abuse scandals have rocked the Catholic Church in the United States as well as in Europe. Ireland was shaken by revelations of decades of widespread child abuse and evidence of a cover up late last year. Reports of sexual abuse also surfaced recently in Germany and elsewhere.
Cardinal Brady said the past had to be confronted.
"Dealing with the past is never easy - for individuals, society, for the church - but it has to be done and the future has to be faced," added Brady.
Brady said he would reflect on what the future might hold in the coming weeks. There have been calls for the cardinal's resignation.