Pope summons all bishops to meeting on church scandal
Bishops of all 26 dioceses in Ireland have been summoned to Rome next month by Pope Benedict for an unprecedented emergency meeting on the child clerical abuse scandals.
The two-day meeting at the Vatican on February 15 and 16 will hammer out the initiatives that will be proposed by the pontiff in his special pastoral Lenten letter addressed exclusively to the Catholics of Ireland.
Details will be announced by the bishops on their return to their dioceses on Ash Wednesday, February 17.
Intense preparations for the Rome Summit will be conducted at an extraordinary meeting of the Bishop's Conference on Friday in St Patrick's College, Maynooth.
Today's 'Irish Catholic' newspaper reports that Pope Benedict decided to call all Irish bishops to Rome because of what he perceived to be a very serious situation in Ireland.
An index of the urgency surrounding the Rome venue is that the heads of the major Vatican Congregations will take part in the talks in a desperate bid to address the anger and shock felt by Catholics since the publication of the Ryan and Murphy reports.
Leading the Irish side will be Cardinal Sean Brady and Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin.
By the end of the Rome summit, agreed concrete proposals will be incorporated by the the Pope in his Lenten letter, which will be published to coincide with the return of the bishops to their dioceses for the Ash Wednesday liturgies.
Meanwhile, Irish bishops and priests will be asked by Pope Benedict XVI to hold public services of repentance as atonement to victims of clerical abuse.
Pope Benedict will make the request to leaders of the Catholic Church in the pastoral letter, the Vatican has confirmed.
And he will call for more lay participation in the running of the church.
His letter will also include a strong condemnation of "heinous crimes" perpetrated by priests against children.
Last month, the Pope said he shared the "outrage, betrayal and shame" felt by Irish Catholics after the publication of the Murphy and Ryan reports into the way abuse claims were handled by church leaders.
Sources said Pope Benedict's letter would not, however, contain a detailed blueprint for the reorganisation of the Irish church, such as the holding of a national synod or assembly of bishops, priests and laity.
Archbishop Martin has predicted that the Pope's letter will be "quite a significant document".
He said it would mark the beginning of a process whose ultimate aim would be "a very significant reorganisation of the church in Ireland".
"The climate in the church, which allowed abusers to go unpunished, will only change once there is a renewal, a willingness to publicly accept responsibility for one's actions and greater involvement by lay people in all areas of church life," Archbishop Martin said.