Pope's anger at child abuse

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Pope Benedict told Irish bishops at crisis talks over a paedophilia scandal that sexual abuse of children by priests is a "heinous crime" that they must address with resolve, the Vatican said yesterday.

In a statement issued at the end of two days of meetings, the Vatican also said the Irish bishops had promised the Pope they are committed to co-operating with civil authorities in investigations of the scandal.

"The Holy Father observed that the sexual abuse of children and young people is not only a heinous crime, but also a grave sin which offends God and wounds the dignity of the human person created in his image," a statement said.

Pope Benedict, the 24 Irish bishops and top Vatican officials met in response to outrage in Ireland over the Murphy Commission report, a damning indictment of child sex abuse by priests. The report said the Church in Ireland had "obsessively" concealed child abuse in the Dublin archdiocese from 1975 to 2004. The meetings discussed a plan of action and could lead to more prelates resigning. Four have already quit.

The Pope will send a letter to the Irish people, the first-ever papal document devoted exclusively to paedophilia, during Lent, which begins on Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday, a spokesman said.