Pope tells Irish bishops pedophilia a heinous crime

Tue Feb 16, 2010 10:41am EST
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict told Irish bishops at crisis talks over a pedophilia scandal that sexual abuse of children by priests is a "heinous crime" that they must address with resolve, the Vatican said on Tuesday.

In a statement issued at the end of two days of meetings, the Vatican also said the Irish bishops had promised the pope they are committed to cooperating with civil authorities in investigations of the scandal.

"The Holy Father observed that the sexual abuse of children and young people is not only a heinous crime, but also a grave sin which offends God and wounds the dignity of the human person created in his image," a statement said.

Benedict, the 24 Irish bishops and top Vatican officials met in response to outrage in Ireland over the Murphy Commission Report, a damning indictment of child sex abuse by priests.

The report, published in November, said the Church in Ireland had "obsessively" concealed child abuse in the Dublin archdiocese from 1975 to 2004, and operated a policy of "don't ask, don't tell."

The meetings, the first of their kind at the Vatican in eight years, discussed a plan of action and could lead to more prelates resigning in a shakeup of the Irish church hierarchy. Four have already quit.

"While realizing that the current painful situation will not be resolved quickly, (the pope) challenged the Bishops to address the problems of the past with determination and resolve, and to face the present crisis with honesty and courage," the statement said.

The bishops also "emphasized their commitment to cooperation with the statutory authorities in Ireland -- North and South" as well as with other organizations looking into the abuse of children, it said.   Continued...

<p>Head of the Irish Bishops Conference Cardinal Sean Brady speaks during a news conference at the Vatican following a two-day meeting with Pope Benedict XVI February 16, 2010. REUTERS/Max Rossi</p>