Papal letter 'will help repentance and healing'
Pope Benedict hopes his long-awaited pastoral letter dealing with the child abuse scandal -- expected to be published tomorrow or Saturday -- will "help repentance, healing and renewal".
Speaking in English to pilgrims and tourists in St Peter's Square for his general audience yesterday, Pope Benedict said he would sign the letter tomorrow.
He added: "As you know, in recent months the church in Ireland has been severely shaken as a result of the child abuse crisis. As a sign of my deep concern I have written a pastoral letter dealing with this painful situation.
"I ask all of you to read it for yourselves, with an open heart and in a spirit of faith. My hope is that it will help in the process of repentance, healing and renewal," he said.
It is expected to be released tomorrow or Saturday, Vatican sources said. Although it will be addressed to the Irish people, the letter is expected to touch on clerical paedophilia in a number of European countries.
The letter, the first papal document devoted exclusively to paedophilia, follows a damning government report on widespread child abuse by priests in Dublin archdiocese.
The Vatican has been trying to contain damage as a string of scandals of sexual abuse of children by priests have hit Ireland, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. The latest scandal is especially delicate for Pope Benedict -- Munich's bishop from 1977 to 1981.
With public opinion in Germany boiling, the vice president of the lower house of parliament Wolfgang Thierse called on him to apologise on behalf of those responsible.
Last week the head of Germany's Catholic Church apologised to victims of child abuse by priests when he came to Rome for a routine visit that was transformed into a crisis management meeting.
Archbishop Robert Zollitsch briefed the Pope about the situation in Germany, where more than 100 reports of abuse have emerged, including one linked to the prestigious Regensburg choir run by the Pope's brother from 1964 to 1994.
The Pope's former diocese in Bavaria said he was involved in a decision in 1980 to move a priest there who was suspected of child abuse.