Archbishop issuing statement on child safeguards

A Catholic archbishop will today issue a statement about the safeguarding of children after sex abuse accusations that have rocked the Church.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, will present the statement to go out to all parishes in England and Wales at the end of a plenary meeting in Leeds.

The statement, at the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, comes as Pope Benedict XVI made his first public remarks calling for change since the crisis erupted.

During his weekly public audience yesterday in St Peter's Square, Pope Benedict spoke of a statement earlier issued by the Vatican pledging the Church would take action to confront the clerical sex abuse scandal.

The statement said the Church would do everything in its power to bring justice to abusive priests and would implement "effective measures" to protect children.

It has also been reported that Pope Benedict has accepted the resignation of Bishop James Moriarty, who admitted in December that he had not challenged the Dublin archdioceses' past practice of concealing child abuse complaints from police.

Earlier this month, Archbishop Nichols admitted the Church's "guilt" and "need for forgiveness" over the sex abuse scandal.

Speaking at Westminster Cathedral on Easter Sunday, he said: "Talk of sin is not always popular - unless we are talking about other people's sins.

"In recent weeks the serious sins committed within the Catholic community have been much talked about.

"For our part, we have been reflecting on them deeply, acknowledging our guilt and our need for forgiveness."

Pressure has been mounting on the Catholic Church since a bombshell report in November which detailed decades of child abuse in Ireland and found paedophile priests were shielded by peers and officials.

The wider Catholic Church has been engulfed by sex abuse scandals this year, with victims coming forward in Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and the United States.

Thousands of people have signed a petition on Downing Street's website against the Pope's four-day visit to England and Scotland in September.

The petition, launched by gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, says the visit, to cost an estimated £15 million, should not be funded by the British taxpayer.