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Pope must apologise to nation, say abuse survivors

SURVIVORS of clerical abuse demanded leadership and accountability from Pope Benedict XVI last night as Irish bishops prepared for a major Vatican summit over the devastating scandals.

The 24 senior clergymen will take part in unprecedented two-day talks after being summoned before the pontiff over the sexual abuse revelations that have rocked the Irish church.

John Kelly, of the Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA) support group, said it wanted Pope Benedict to take firm action to restore the church in Ireland and provide proper financial compensation to victims.

"We've asked the pontiff to restore the honour to the Irish nation," Mr Kelly said.

"To restore the true church to Ireland. Because it wasn't up to now."

A similar Vatican meeting took place in 2002 when US cardinals were invited to Rome by Pope John Paul II to discuss abuse scandals involving the American church.

Meetings will be held in the Vatican throughout today and tomorrow morning, with the Pope and up to seven of his senior cardinals and aides expected to attend.

Michael O'Brien, a former Fianna Fail politician and abuse survivor, demanded that the Pope apologise to the people of Ireland.

"We want the Pope to make a proper apology to Ireland, for what happened in Ireland," he 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 100pc behind us on this.

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"This is not an Irish problem. This is a Catholic Church worldwide problem."

The papal invitation was extended to all diocesan bishops last month in the wake of the abuse revelations contained in the Ryan and Murphy reports.

A spokesman for the bishops said they had prepared for the meeting by speaking with abuse survivors, lay people and priests.

"It is expected the discussions will be frank and open," he said.

Pope Benedict has also promised a pastoral letter to Irish Catholics, but it is not known when this will be published.

Meanwhile, more than 150 people attended a meeting organised by SOCA in central Dublin yesterday. Mr Kelly said any plans for a national memorial to the victims must proceed at the same time as plans for financial compensation.

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