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Pope Benedict scolded Irish bishops today for their handling of decades of child abuse by priests in Ireland. Benedict had summoned 24 bishops to an exceptional two-day meeting at the Vatican. Four bishops have offered their resignations. The pope has so far accepted one. But the meeting did not address victims' demands that he forced more bishops to resign.
NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports from Rome.
SYLVIA POGGIOLI: In a written statement, the Vatican acknowledged that the Irish crisis has led to a breakdown in trust in the church's leadership. Pope Benedict condemned the abuse of children as a heinous crime and challenged the bishops to address problems of the past with determination and resolve.
Each of 24 bishops was given five minutes to give his version of events. And as the Vatican statement pointed out, the bishops committed themselves to cooperation with Irish state authorities. There was no discussion of resignations nor of the victims' other demand - to be received by the pope at the Vatican.
At a later press conference with some Irish bishops, these omissions prompted numerous tough questions. John Cooney of the Irish Independent asked Bishop Denis Brennan for his reaction to the victims' anger.
Mr.�JOHN COONEY (Irish Independent): Already in Ireland, the victims are on radio saying that this meeting has been a complete failure.
Bishop DENIS BRENNAN: The victims were central to all of our discussions in these days, and the victims remain our top priority.
POGGIOLI: The Vatican meeting came two months after the Murphy Commission report into crimes by pedophile priests said the church in Ireland had obsessively concealed child abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese from 1975 to 2004 and operated a policy of don't ask, don't tell.
The Murphy Report came just seven months after another investigation revealed chronic beatings, rapes, near starvation and humiliation of 30,000 children in schools and orphanages all run by the Catholic Church in Ireland. Irish clergy acknowledged their responsibility for seriously mismanaging the crisis. Bishop Joseph Duffy said one problem was lack of communication among the bishops themselves.
Bishop JOSEPH DUFFY (Ireland): We are coming from a culture of secrecy and confidentiality, which admittedly was overemphasized in the past.
POGGIOLI: But when asked whether this climate of secrecy had been encouraged by the Holy See, and whether the Vatican had some responsibility in the cover-ups, the bishops evaded the questions.
On Sunday, meeting with reporters, Bishop Duffy had said he had knowledge that Pope Benedict was well informed on the entire Irish issue even before he became pope in 2005.
While the Irish bishops were meeting in the Vatican, anger flared at home over the refusal of the papal envoy, the nuncio, to appear before an Irish parliamentary committee probing church cooperation with investigations into the abuse cover-up.
Cardinal Sean Brady said he raised the issue with top Vatican officials. This is what he was told.
Cardinal SEAN BRADY (Ireland): This is not the practice that a nuncio should appear before a parliamentary committee.
POGGIOLI: In an open letter to the pope issued today, John Kelly, founder of the victims' group Survivors of Child Abuse, complained that the secular powers in Ireland appear paralyzed to bring to civil justice some of those who carried out acts of horrific abuse, as well as those who assisted by acts of omission or even outright collusion after the fact.
Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome.