Pope tries to stem tide of sex abuse allegations

Catholics hope that publication of pastoral letter will help to ease crisis

Pope Benedict XVI will today make a desperate attempt to draw a line under the Catholic Church's sex-abuse scandal with the publication of a long-awaited pastoral letter demanding that urgent steps be taken to bring the crisis to an end.

Although addressed to the bishops of Ireland, it could just as easily be addressed to his entire flock after reports of shocking abuse have piled up from Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Italy and even in the Pope's own former diocese in Germany in recent weeks.

Senior Vatican figures have told Italian newspapers that they are desperate for the pastoral letter to mark a turning-point in the scandal, which some fear could damage the Church's standing beyond repair.

Pope Benedict's successor as Archbishop of Munich, Reinhard Marx, said the letter would "speak for everyone. It is not so individual, for specific groups or countries. That word will also be important for us".

The Italian daily Corriere della Sera quoted Vatican officials as saying the letter, to be read at Sunday Mass, "will contain not only religious considerations" but also "precise practical indications" on how the officials will "detect and cure this sore, removing it from the Church". Pope Benedict has said: "My hope is that it will help in the process of repentance, healing and renewal." Cardinal Brady, head of the Irish bishops, said this week that he was looking forward to it as an "important source" for a "new beginning and renewal in the Catholic Church of Ireland".

The letter had been prompted by a government-backed report that found that Irish church authorities covered up horrifying child-abuse by priests from 1975 to 2004. But scandal has since exploded across Europe.

Now the personal reputation of the pontiff has come under threat, with some senior church figures demanding an apology and accusing him of involvement in a lengthy cover-up.

Some theologians and senior church figures want a personal apology from the head of the Catholic Church. As a cardinal in 2001, he had declared that complaints against paedophile priests were covered by "pontifical secret", and should be handled by bishops in strict confidence, despite admitting that "very grave sins" had been committed.

Lawyers acting for abuse victims claim this was designed to prevent the allegations from becoming public knowledge or being investigated by the authorities.

The leading Swiss dissident theologian Hans Küng unleashed a fierce attack on the Pope this week, demanding that the pontiff "acknowledge his share of responsibility, instead of whining about a campaign against his person". Writing in the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, the Rev Küng, who once taught alongside the Pope, added: "No other person in the Church has had to deal with so many cases of abuse crossing his desk ... Honesty demands that Joseph Ratzinger himself, the man who for decades has been principally responsible for the worldwide cover-up, at last pronounce his own mea culpa."

The Vatican has tried to defend the pontiff. The Pope was the Archbishop of Munich and Freising when paedophile priest Father Peter Hullermann was transferred there. The diocese has said the then Archbishop did not know that the priest continued to work in Bavarian congregations.

Far-reaching crisis: Allegations against the Church

1. US American church has paid out more than $2bn in law suits after hundreds were abused, particularly in and around Boston.

2. MEXICO Vatican recently finished investigation into Legionaries of Christ founder Marcial Maciel who secretly fathered a child and molested seminarians.

3. BRAZIL Priest and two monsignors suspended from church duties after priest allegedly filmed having sex with altar boy.

4. IRELAND Two major reports have uncovered systemic abuse of more than 15,000 children and large church-led cover-up. Current primate Cardinal Sean O'Brady admits to overseeing vows of silence for two abuse victims.

5. UK (ENGLAND & WALES) Numerous abuse revelations surfaced in early 2000s, hundreds thought to have been sexually abused. Known paedophile priests such as Michael Hill were moved from diocese to diocese where they continued to abuse.

6. NETHERLANDS Investigation underway into 200 abuse allegations from the 1950s to the 1970s.

7. GERMANY Multiple historical abuse allegations involving more than 300 children. Claims investigated in 18 of Germany's 27 dioceses including in a choir once run by Georg Ratzinger, the Pope's older brother.

8. AUSTRIA 16 people have reported 27 instances of historical abuse and the head of prestigious Salzburg monastery resigned over abusing a boy 40 years ago.

9. SWITZERLAND Commission currently investigating more than 60 abuse allegations spanning the last 15 years.

10. ITALY Abuse allegations have emerged in northern diocese of Bolzano.

people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering