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Benedict's involvement 'shows extent of cover-ups'

Irish victims of clerical sex abuse said the involvement of Pope Benedict XVI in covering up for paedophile priests showed that the practice was endemic within the Catholic Church and said he should now consider his own position.

Andrew Madden, who was abused by a priest in the Dublin Archdiocese, said it appeared the Pope was doing the same thing as the archbishops of Dublin going back to John Charles McQuaid by not reporting clerics to the civil authorities.

"It goes some way to explaining why he has been very slow to act on the offers of resignation that are on his desk from the Irish bishops because the people who are offering to resign have done nothing he hasn't done himself," he said.

Another victim, Marie Collins, said the implication of the Pope in clerical sex scandals in Germany showed the practice of covering up for offenders and moving them on to different dioceses was "church-wide".

"It is just so familiar, it's the same type of behaviour we had with the hierarchy here. It sounds as though this is just how the church handled abusing priests -- it's not an Irish thing, it's a Catholic Church thing."

Pope Benedict's pastoral letter to Irish Catholics is on course, in spite of calls for the pontiff to delay it until after Easter to take account of the clerical child abuse scandals in Germany, Holland and Austria.

In Rome, German Cardinal Walter Kaspar, President of the Pontifical Council for Promotion of Christian Unity, suggested a delay when said the papal letter required "a much more general analysis" than merely the Irish situation.

But Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said the Pope's letter to the faithful in Ireland "is still on course". There is speculation it will come out on St Patrick's Day. But more likely dates are Palm Sunday, March 28, or Holy Thursday, which is April 1.

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