Pope Benedict has written to Catholics in Ireland to apologize for the sexual abuses carried out by the clergy in that country over the past decades. He ordered an investigation into the Irish church but stopped short of admitting any Vatican responsibility. Irish victims of the abuses said they are deeply disappointed with the letter.
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It's the first letter by a pope that deals entirely with pedophilia. Pope Benedict's 7-page missive is addressed to the Catholics of Ireland - specifically to the victims of child abuse, to their parents, to the priests, brothers and nuns who were involved in the abuses and to the church leadership in Ireland.
Pope Benedict said he feels shame and remorse for what the victims of the abuse have endured. He acknowledged the sense of betrayal they have suffered and recognized that in many cases no one listened to them when they finally found the courage to speak out. And he asked the victims not to lose hope.
The head of the Irish Church, Cardinal Sean Brady, who himself has come under fire with accusations of failing to do enough, read the pope's letter out Saturday in church in Armagh, Northern Ireland.
"It is evident from the pastoral letter that Pope Benedict is deeply dismayed by what he refers to as sinful and criminal acts at the way the church authorities in Ireland dealt with them," he said.
In the letter Pope Benedict said many church leaders committed grave errors by failing to respond to allegations of child sex abuse by priests. He said serious mistakes were made and this has led to a loss of credibility of the church.
Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi said the pope uses very strong language against those who are guilty of the abuses and who must answer for their sinful and criminal acts before God and before tribunals.
The pope announced there would be a formal Vatican investigation of Irish dioceses, seminaries and religious orders. He also said he was willing to meet the victims to acknowledge their suffering personally.
But Irish victims of the abuses expressed their disappointment. The Irish clerical-abuse victims group, "One in Four," said the letter falls short of addressing concerns of the victims and also criticized the fact the Vatican does not take responsibility for what occurred and that no specific punishment is laid out for the bishops who knew and the priests involved in the abuses.