Abusing clergy must admit responsibility, bishops told


A top Vatican official has told Irish bishops in Rome for talks with the pope on the Irish Church's handling of child abuse that clergy who had sinned must admit blame for "abominable acts".

The message came in the sermon of a mass in St Peter's Basilica shortly before the bishops began two days of crisis talks with the pope to formulate a response to the revelations of abuse by clergy that have shaken devoutly Catholic Ireland.

The historic meeting between Pope Benedict, six senior Curial Cardinals, and 24 Irish bishops resumed this afternoon and will resume tomorrow.

Catholic primate Cardinal Seán Brady will host a press conference tomorrow afternoon at which he is expected to outline what has taken place in discussions at the Apostolic Palace over the two days.

This morning’s session began at 8am with Mass in St Peter’s Basilica which was celebrated by the Vatican secretary of State Cardinal Bertone.

It was concelebrated by the Irish bishops and those other senior Curial cardinals who have been taking part in today’s discussions.

They include Cardinal Re, Cardinal Levada, Cardinal Hummes, Cardinal Rode, Cardinal Grocholewski, Archbishop Coccopalmeiro.

In his homily, Cardinal Bertone urged the Irish bishops to consider their trials with joy because, while on the one hand they humiliate, on the other hand they test faith, producing patience and perseverance.

He added that, for the Church, these tests “may come from outside or inside. Both are painful, but those that come from within are naturally hard and humiliating”.

He described the trials facing the Catholic community in Ireland as “a serious test” which “sees some churchmen involved in particularly abhorrent acts”.

He said “this kind of test strips us of any false security and pushes us to entrust ourselves to God alone”.

Because only if we are “true and sincerely humble” can “the grace of God act and we achieve a true rebirth”.

The Cardinal warned against the temptation to discouragement and despair touching the hearts of believers, shaking their faith and threatening their ability to trust God.

For this reason, he concluded, the bishop’s must accept Gods will with a “good and faithful heart in order to receive the full force of renewal”.

After Mass the Irish bishops went to the Vatican ’s Apostolic Palace where each met Pope Benedict in turn before discussions began, led off by the Ireland ’s Catholic Primate Cardinal Sean Brady.

The Irish bishops will stay tonight at the Santa Marta complex within the Vatican . It was built to accommodate cardinals during a papal conclave and to ensure they had no contact with the outside world.

Cardinal Sean Brady told Vatican Radio the two-day meeting was part of a "journey of repentance, reconciliation and renewal" for the Irish Church.

But Clogher Bishop Joseph Duffy said resignations were not on the agenda in Rome, despite victims' demands that clerics who played a role in concealing pedophile priests from censure step down.

Tomorrow morning the bishops will resume discussions with the Pope and his senior cardinals concluding around lunchtime as many bishops must return to Ireland tomorrow afternoon for Ash Wednesday ceremonies.

A press conference tomorrow afternoon will be attended by Cardinal Brady and other bishops yet to be named.

Yet Andrew Madden, who in 1995 became the first in Ireland to go public with an abuse lawsuit against the church, was pessimistic about prospects that "the pope and the bishops will do what's required or what's right."

"It's clear that most of Ireland's bishops should go, because they conspired in covering up heinous crimes," Mr Madden told The Associated Press news agency in Dublin. "Most of them will cling to their positions regardless of the anguish this causes the victims."

"For the bishops to say that resignations aren't on the agenda just compounds the anger and grief of abuse victims," Madden said.