Monday, 15 February 2010
Irish bishops have begun a two-day meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican to discuss the fall-out from reports on clerical child abuse.
The 24 senior clergymen will take part in the unprecedented talks after being called before the Pope in the wake of the sexual abuse revelations.
On the eve of the meeting, survivors of clerical abuse demanded leadership and accountability from the Pope and called for financial compensation for victims.
Four bishops have already resigned over the Murphy Report, which unveiled a catalogue of child abuse and subsequent cover-ups over three decades by the Catholic hierarchy in Dublin.
But the Spokesman for the Irish Bishops Conference, Bishop Joseph Duffy, said it was not their place to speak publicly about resignations.
He said: 'It's not our business as individual bishops to discuss publicly a resignation. That's something that will happen or will not happen as a result of the overall discussion that will take place.'
John Kelly, of Survivors of Child Abuse, said the group wanted the Pope to restore honour to the country.
'The honour that was so severely damaged at home and abroad by the atrocities committed by the anti-Christ over the last 50 years,' he said.
'To restore the true church to Ireland.'
Meetings will be held in the Vatican throughout the day and tomorrow morning with the Pope and up to seven of his senior cardinals and aides due to attend.
All-Ireland Primate Cardinal Seán Brady opened the summit with a presentation and each bishop will be given seven minutes to speak.
Before the meeting, Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone said the scandal is humiliating but can be overcome by faith.
Mr Bertone said: 'Challenges that come from within (the Catholic Church) are naturally harder and humiliating.
'Every kind of challenge can become a reason for purification and sanctification as long as it is illuminated by faith.'
Abuse survivor Michael O'Brien said the Pope should apologise to the people of Ireland.
'We want the Pope to make a proper apology to Ireland, for what happened in Ireland,' he said.
'We don't want a bland apology, we want an apology to those of us in Ireland who were abused and to the people of Ireland who are 100% behind us on this.
'This is not an Irish problem. This is a Catholic Church worldwide problem. Religious orders, worldwide problem.'
Christine Buckley of the Aislinn Centre has called for the Pope to travel to Ireland to apologise in person to the victims.
The Pope also promised to send a pastoral letter over the abuse scandals, but it is not known when this will be published.
Auxiliary Bishops of Dublin Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field bowed to weeks of intense pressure and announced at Christmas Eve services that they were quitting their posts over the Murphy inquiry's findings.
They were the latest senior clerics to stand down after Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin James Moriarty and Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray also resigned.
Current Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan, also named in the Murphy Report, has repeatedly faced down calls for his resignation.
Abuse survivors met Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin on Saturday to insist he convey the distress of families and that the Pope accepts the resignations of Bishops Moriarty, Walsh and Field.
They also called on the Pope to remove Bishop Drennan from office immediately and other bishops who failed to challenge the culture of cover-up.
Bishop Murray will not attend the summit nor will Bishop of Cloyne John Magee who stood aside last March over his mishandling of abuse allegations in his diocese.
Bishop Moriarty is attending as his resignation has not yet been accepted by the Vatican.
Auxiliary Bishops Walsh and Bishop Field did not travel as only diocesan bishops were invited.