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Pope ‘could still meet victims of clerical sex abuse’

Pope Benedict is personally angry over the treatment of Ireland's clerical sex abuse victims and wants to know how his Irish bishops got things so badly wrong, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin disclosed yesterday.

He said the two-day Vatican meeting between the Pope and Ireland's 24 bishops was only “the start” of a long process.

He hinted that a meeting between Irish abuse victims and the Pope was now a possibility.

After abuse victims and support groups expressed their fury over the apparent lack of action from the summit, Archbishop Martin moved yesterday to re-assure them and said “they should not lose heart”.

Speaking at an Ash Wednesday service at UCD, he said he believed the Pope understood the sense of anger in Ireland.

Archbishop Martin said: “I am angry. He (the Pope) is angry about what happened. He wants to see how it is that people who are intelligent and good people got this wrong.”

A meeting between survivors and the Pope, a key demand of some abuse survivors, appears to be moving closer.

The archbishop said: “The question of meetings was not excluded. The Pope has met with survivors in a number of countries. He has always done so rather quietly and it is announced afterwards.

“It is to avoid the fact this could become a media event rather than a genuine listening to people in the serenity that a thing like that requires. So nothing is excluded.”

Dr Martin will himself meet abuse survivors on Friday to discuss the outcome of the meeting.

The second most powerful figure in the Irish church said the Vatican meeting was the start, rather than the climax, of a process.

He rubbished rumours of a rift with fellow bishops after he missed a Rome Press conference hosted by Primate of all-Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady.

He had made travel plans before it was announced. “The original invitation said the meeting would end at lunch hour so the bishops who wanted to be in their diocese for Ash Wednesday could be there. I took that seriously, I booked a flight at that stage.”

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