Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams claims Irish Church 'has lost credibility'

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has lost "all credibility" because of the child abuse scandal.

Commenting for the first time on the crisis gripping the Catholic Church, Dr Rowan Williams said the revelations had been a "colossal trauma" for Ireland in particular.

The Catholic Church in Ireland has been rocked in recent months after revelations that paedophile priests got away with decades of horrific child sex abuse.

Pressure mounted this month on its leader, the Primate of All-Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady, after he admitted being at a meeting where children abused by notorious convicted sex offender Fr Brendan Smyth were forced to take a vow of silence.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4 Programme Start the Week, to be broadcast on Monday, Dr Williams said: "I was speaking to an Irish friend recently who was saying that it's quite difficult in some parts of Ireland to go down the street wearing a clerical collar now.

"And an institution so deeply bound into the life of a society suddenly becoming, suddenly losing all credibility -- that's not just a problem for the church, it is a problem for everybody in Ireland."

The abuse scandal has also engulfed Pope Benedict XVI, who faced claims he failed to properly investigate a serial abuser in a children's home for the deaf in Wisconsin in the US in the late 1990s.

The Vatican has provoked more controversy after the Pope's personal preacher likened the criticism of the Church over the sex abuse scandal to "collective violence" suffered by the Jews.

The Rev Raniero Cantalamessa said in a Good Friday homily with the Pope listening to him in St Peter's Basilica that a Jewish friend wrote to him to say the accusations remind him of the "more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism".

At Holy Thursday Mass in St Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin told worshippers the Church's response to paedophilia had been hopelessly inadequate and said: "Some ask me, 'Can we not leave all that aside now, proclaim closure and move on?'. I cannot agree. There can be no overlooking the past."