THE pastoral letter from Pope Benedict in response to the clerical sex abuse scandals will be read at Masses throughout Ireland this evening and tomorrow.
The historic letter was published at a press conference in Rome this morning, three months after it was promised by the Pope.
The pastoral letter to the Irish faithful was presented to the world's media in the Vatican earlier today.
It was sent to each Irish bishop directly by Rome today for distribution to parishes. Victims of abuse will this evening be considering its contents, and their response to it.
There has been much international interest in the contents of the letter since it was promised last December, when Cardinal Sean Brady and the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, went to Rome following publication of the Murphy Report.
Since then, there have been extensive revelations of alleged child sex abuse in other countries by priests in Germany, Austria, Brazil, Italy and the Netherlands.
Church officials yesterday confirmed a new wave of allegations of physical and sexual abuse had surfaced.
"It's like a tsunami," said Elke Huemmeler, head of the Munich diocese's newly founded sexual abuse prevention taskforce. Pope Benedict was expected to signal in his Irish Lenten Pastoral letter, if he will visit Ireland in 2012 for the Eucharistic Congress.
Such a visit would pave the way for an emotional meeting with victims of clerical sexual abuse -- a key demand of Irish abuse survivors.
On St Patrick's Day, Pope Benedict asked Irish Catholics to read his pastoral letter on the sexual abuse crisis "with an open heart and in a spirit of faith".
He added that it would contain "a sign of my deep concern" over "this painful situation".
The contents of Pope Benedict's unprecedented letter to Catholics here will be monitored closely by abuse victims across the globe.
Meanwhile victim support group One in Four yesterday issued its own "Papal letter" setting out what it said survivors deserved to hear.
Its version of the letter from the Pope reads: "I want to say clearly and unequivocally that the Catholic Church at the highest levels has always known about the clerical sexual abuse of children.
"We have pursued a deliberate policy of cover-up, protecting sex offenders in order to avoid scandal, with no regard for the safety of children...For this I am deeply sorry."