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Faithful awaiting the Pope’s message to Ireland

The Pope will address Ireland tomorrow in an unprecedented letter apologising for chronic Catholic child abuse.



His message will be watched closely by angry Catholics from Boston to Berlin to see if he acknowledges only the abuse itself — or the decades of Vatican-approved cover-ups too.

Throughout the Catholic world the Church is only starting to come to terms with the scale of child abuse permitted in many of its parishes and schools throughout the 20th century.

The tide of scandal has surged from Canada and Australia in the 1980s, to Ireland in the 1990s, reaching the United States at the turn of the century and finally the Pope's German homeland today.

Commentators and victims' rights activists agree that to begin mending the Church's battered image, the message to Ireland — his first pastoral letter on child abuse in the Church — must break his silence on the pivotal role of the Catholic hierarchy in shielding paedophiles from prosecution.

Dirk Taenzler, director of the Federation for German Catholic Youth, said his members were appalled by the revelations of past abuse in Church-run schools and choirs — and wondered why the Pope had yet to address his fellow Germans as he is about to do with the Irish. “Everyone is suffering from the Church's bad image,” he said.

The Pope's successor in Munich, Archbishop Reinhard Marx, said the letter to Ireland “will of course affect us”.

“The Pope always speaks for everyone. It is not so individual, for specific groups or countries,” he said.

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