Pope Benedict apology: I am truly sorry to victims and their families in Ireland
Pope Benedict has issued an apology to the victims of clerical sex abuse in Ireland.
In a pastoral letter, read by Cardinal Sean Brady, he spoke of the sense of betrayal felt by victims and their families.
However, the eight-page pastoral letter to Catholics in Ireland did not refer directly to any disciplinary action. The Vatican, he said, would be focused particularly on the situation in Ireland, even as the crisis has widened elsewhere.
“You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated,” the pope told victims and their families.
“Many of you found that, when you were courageous enough to speak of what happened to you, no one would listen. Those of you who were abused in residential institutions must have felt that there was no escape for your sufferings.
“It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church,” said the Pope. “In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel.”
He said there had been "serious mistakes" among bishops in responding to allegations of paedophilia.
The pastoral letter is the first public statement by the Vatican on the sexual abuse of children, dating back decades.
It follows revelations of paedophilia within the Irish Catholic Church, which have rocked the institution.
Scandals involving Catholic priests have been reported in other countries, including the Pope's native Germany.
Addressing the victims of abuse, the Pope wrote: "You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry."
He said those guilty of abuse must "answer before God and properly constituted tribunals for the sinful and criminal actions they have committed".
Pope Benedict called for healing, reparation and renewal in the Irish church but essentially his remedy is more prayer.
His letter called for no resignations of bishops, although a few have already volunteered to leave their posts.