Vatican prepares for Irish visitation


The Vatican has said its forthcoming Apostolic Visitation to Ireland in the wake of the sexual abuse scandals will pay "particular attention" to abuse victims and their families.

However, it was unclear whether this included formal meetings with abuse survivors or victim support groups.

Papally appointed inspectors from the United States, Britain and Canada have ended two days of meetings with Vatican officials and heads of the four Irish dioceses that are to be investigated, a Vatican statement said.

However, Pope Benedict announced the inquiry, formally known as an "apostolic visitation," last March in a pastoral letter to the Irish people about the sexual abuse scandal, which has already led to the resignation of three bishops here.

"The Visitators (inspectors) will give particular attention to victims of abuse and their families, but will also meet with and listen to a variety of people, including ecclesiastical authorities, lay faithful and those involved with the crucial work of safeguarding of children," the statement said.

The inquiry will involve visits to churches, seminaries and convents and the questioning of hundreds of people. The investigators will explore the handling of cases of abuse in the past, look into assistance owed to the victims and review procedures for preventing abuse.

"All participants are hopeful that this significant endeavour will be an instrument of purification and healing for the Church in Ireland and help to restore the trust and hope of the faithful there," the Vatican statement said.

The four Irish dioceses to be investigated are Armagh, Dublin, Cashel-Emly, and Tuam.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Conner, emeritus archbishop of Westminster, will lead the investigation of Armagh and Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley of Boston will lead the Dublin inquiry. Toronto Archbishop Thomas Christopher Collins will look into Cashel-Emly and Ottawa Archbishop Thomas Prendergast was assigned Tuam.

The inquiry follows a damning Government report on widespread child abuse by priests in the Dublin archdiocese between 1975 and 2004. It said the Church in Ireland had "obsessively" concealed the abuse.

The report, issued last year, said one priest admitted abusing more than 100 children. Another said he had abused children every two weeks for more than 25 years.