Can mere words restore faith?
CAN mere words, even those of the leader of the Catholic Church, undo the damage that has been done to victims of clerical child abuse and restore any of the Irish church's lost authority? Today we will learn the contents of the Pope's long-awaited letter to the Catholics of Ireland.
It seems likely that Benedict will tell us of his personal shame, ask forgiveness on behalf of the church and say that there is no room in the priesthood for abusers. If he emphasises, strongly and clearly, that there must be no more secrecy or cover-up, that priests and bishops must act quickly and honestly in co-operating with the civil authorities, will they all listen and obey?
Recent statements by individuals suggested that not everyone had got the message. Perhaps they will understand when their Pope spells it out.
What can Pope Benedict say that will satisfy those who were raped by priests?
Some have already said his letter comes "years too late".
Nevertheless, he is sure to try to convince them of his personal sincerity and the remorse of his clergy.
As he does so, Pope Benedict will be sending a message to survivors of clerical abuse everywhere. For there is hardly a country that has not been touched by this scourge, and fresh outrages are coming to light all the time.
Will he address the huge, universal scandal, which has shadowed his own doorstep, or will he refer only to Ireland?
The world will be listening.