Rome 'told priests to keep quiet about abuse'

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The Independent Online

Ireland's government summoned the Vatican's ambassador yesterday for a rare face-to-face meeting to respond to a report showing that Rome secretly discouraged Irish bishops from reporting paedophile priests to police.

The Foreign minister, Eamon Gilmore, met Pope Benedict XVI's diplomat in Dublin a day after Irish investigators found that the Vatican in 1997 encouraged bishops to reject the Irish church's tough new child-protection rules.

The Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, who didn't attend the meeting, said that the Vatican's role in placing the church's own canon law above Irish criminal law was "absolutely disgraceful".

He vowed to pass legislation that would make it a crime to withhold evidence of child abuse from the police – even information that a priest obtains in the confession booth.