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Sins of the fathers must be faced, Irish bishops told

Catholic clergy who have sinned by abusing children or by turning a blind eye to paedophile priests must admit blame for their “abominable acts”.

“Yes, storms spark fear, even those that rock the boat of the Church because of the sins of its members,” said Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, in a sermon delivered to Ireland's bishops.

He was speaking inside St Peter's Basilica shortly before two days of crisis talks with the Pope.

Cardinal Bertone said that trials that came from within the Church “are naturally harder and more humiliating”, particularly when “men of the Church were involved in such particularly abominable acts”.

However, they formed a challenge that the Church “must face”. He made his comments during a Mass for survivors of sexual abuse, attended by Ireland's 24 bishops.

Although Cardinal Bertone did not mention victims, prayers were offered for the survivors of abuse, the people, priests and religious of Ireland and for the intentions of Pope Benedict. Prayers were also offered for the summit's success.

Irish victims of abuse by priests — revealed in two Irish government-ordered reports last year — were unimpressed, calling on the Pope to visit Ireland to meet victims in person.

“We want the Pope to make a proper apology to Ireland, for what happened in Ireland,” Michael O'Brien, an abuse victim, said. “We don't want a bland apology, we want an apology to those of us in Ireland who were abused and to the people of Ireland, who are 100% behind us on this.

“This is not an Irish problem. This is a Catholic Church worldwide problem.”

Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland encouraged the Irish people to continue to pray for healing, reconciliation and renewal. He also prayed for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Vatican analysts said that the 11 hours of meetings held by Pope Benedict XVI with Irish bishops on Sunday and a further five-hour behind-closed-doors session yesterday were unprecedented.

Pope Benedict will tell the Irish bishops the thrust of his action plan for resolving the child clerical abuse crisis when he closes a special two-day summit in the Vatican this afternoon, a confidential schedule of proceedings reveals. Talks resume at 9am this morning, and there will be a discussion of “the most important proposals to emerge”.

This, the document says, will be followed by preparation of The Papal Reflection, which Pope Benedict promised to send the Catholics of Ireland in the wake of the public revulsion last November to the Murphy Report's shocking findings of extensive cover-ups in the archdiocese of Dublin.

The document reveals that before the final session ends at noon today, the agenda will focus on “Conclusions by the Holy Father”.

After the bishops have departed, Pope Benedict will take more time to consider reports from his heads of powerful departments in the Vatican who held talks with the bishops before issuing his official letter, possibly in Holy Week ahead of Easter Sunday.

All bishops will be back in their dioceses to lead Ash Wednesday Penitential services.

Meanwhile, after the refusal of the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Guiseppe Leanza to last night to accept an invitation to address an the Irish Parliament, fears were growing that the Pope's response may fall short of the demands from victims for full accountability by the Vatican.

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