I am truly sorry': Pope Benedict apologises for decades of child abuse in Irish Catholic Church Last updated at 4:39 PM on 20th March 2010 Pope Benedict XVI today addressing Ireland to apologise for chronic Catholic child abuse Pope Benedict today told victims of clerical child abuse in Ireland he was 'truly sorry' for their suffering. In a pastoral letter to be read out at weekend masses across the island, the pontiff admitted some bishops had made grave errors of judgment in dealing with paedophile priests. But he stopped short of directly addressing well-documented cover-ups by senior clergy in recent decades, and at least one abuse survivor said the Pope's comments did not go far enough. While intended for the Irish faithful, the letter - the first of its kind to tackle clerical child abuse - will also have meaning for other countries hit by revelations, including the pontiff's native Germany. 'I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them,' the Pope told abuse survivors. 'You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry.' In the much-anticipated letter, Pope Benedict acknowledged that many victims who were brave enough to speak out found no one would listen. The pontiff admitted there had been 'a misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church and the avoidance of scandal, resulting in failure to apply existing canonical penalties and to safeguard the dignity of every person'. He said decisive action was needed to restore Irish people's respect and goodwill towards the Church and called for the clergy's continued co-operation with civil authorities in addressing child abuse. 'In order to recover from this grievous wound, the Church in Ireland must first acknowledge before the Lord and before others the serious sins committed against defenceless children,' he added. Under-fire Cardinal Sean Brady, Primate of all Ireland, gives out the pastoral letter to parishioners at St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh this morning 'Such an acknowledgement, accompanied by sincere sorrow for the damage caused to these victims and their families, must lead to a concerted effort to ensure the protection of children from similar crimes in the future.' The pontiff also expressed willingness in his letter to meet with victims. Revelations of decades of sickening abuse and subsequent cover-ups have rocked the Irish Catholic Church to its foundations. The unprecedented note comes as head of the Catholic Church in Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady continues to resist calls to resign over his handling of historic abuse allegations that saw victims sign confidentiality deals. The under-pressure primate, who has previously said he would take a period of time to reflect on his future, issued the letter to morning mass-goers at St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh. 'In the name of the Church, Pope Benedict openly expresses the shame and remorse that we all feel about the abuse that has occurred,' the cardinal told the congregation. 'Throughout the letter Pope Benedict talks about the need for healing, repentance and renewal. A copy of the pastoral letter from Pope Benedict to Catholics in Ireland at the Vatican today 'He expresses the depth of the pain that has been caused and acknowledges that some people find it difficult even to go inside the doors of a church after all that has occurred.' Cardinal Brady urged people to read the letter with an open heart and in a spirit of faith. 'No one imagines that the present painful situation will be resolved quickly,' he added. 'Yet with perseverance, prayer and working together in unity, the Holy Father says we can be confident that the Church in Ireland will experience a season of rebirth and spiritual renewal.' Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin welcomed the pastoral letter as a further step in the Church's renewal and healing process. 'I welcome the Pope's expression of apology and his recognition of the suffering and betrayal experienced by survivors,' he said. 'The Pope recognises the failures of Church authorities in how they dealt with sinful and criminal acts.' In his letter the pontiff expressed willingness to meet victims and said there would be 'apostolic visitation' of some Dioceses. He also told religious figures who had abused children to answer for their actions before properly constituted tribunals. But abuse survivor Andrew Madden said the words were too little, too late. 'We don't need to be told it was a crime or a sin,' he said. 'The apology today is not for the cover-up, it's for the abuse and for the most part they didn't commit the abuse but they caused some because of the cover-up. 'That's the bit they should say sorry for The fact that these monstrous crimes have been, and continue to be, committed within the catholic church just goes to prove that there cannot possibly be a God. Not that this "business" (catholic church) is likely to be able to redeem itself after this, one radical thought: Allow the priests to marry and to have children. I guarantee the paedophilia rate would reduce drastically. But really, there is no place for religion in the lifes of intelligent people living in the 21st Century. - Marcus, Cardiff, Wales, 20/3/2010 14:40 Click to rate Rating 32 Report abuse Why should anyone be surprised by this? For a thousand years the Church of Rome has been the absolute epitome of institutional corruption, cruelty, greed and hypocrisy Central to its dogmas is the self-evident idiocy of celibacy which was viewed as whacky during the first millenium of Christianity - even by the insanely uptight Paul himself It really is an amazing achievement of the Church's relentless propaganda and terror machine that anyone anywhere still gives it even the smallest credence - Chris Thomas, Oxford, England, 20/3/2010 14:40 Click to rate Rating 104 Report abuse When a child gets molested, it may be an unpleasant experience, but only an adult can turn it into life time damage. Aren't the victims now adults? Isn't it time they just got over it? How pathetic have we become? - Kim, Charlotte, NC USA, 20/3/2010 14:39 Click to rate Rating 352 Report abuse My answer to all th is - why judge the many on behalf of the few. It was a small minority of Catholic clergy who acted in this despicable way. The Catholic church as a whole is at the forefront of charitable works the world over, but of course that does not make great headlines, who's going to get excited by the headline ''Catholic church today fed 10000 hungry babies'', doesn't sell newspapers, or how about ''today in India Cathodic nuns did not eat so that the hungry in their parish could'', doesn't sell newspapers. As for the Crusades, those were organized in response to a request made to the pope for help from the Christians who were being slaughtered by Muslims in the Holy Land. Regarding papal infallibility, the pope doesn't claim to be infallible except when he speaks on matters of faith and morals, and even on those only when he speaks ex-Chatedra. Papers need to remember this is hard for innocent clergy to bear. - Debbie, Ireland, 20/3/2010 14:38 Click to rate Rating 107 Report abuse "How could an "infallible" Pope either fail to be aware of what happened over many years, or chose to ignore it? - John, Wirral, 20/3/2010 13:30" Maybe the Pope believes literally that God will strike down evil doers?? I gather that priests who commit abuse tell themselves that they have God's blessing or otherwise he would have struck them down. But then, since the Pope is "God on earth" presumably he should have been doing the striking down? Doesn't make a lot of sense all the religious rigmorole. Bad is bad whatever. IF anybody in the Church knew it was happening and turned a blind eye and IF there is a God then I am sure they will get their comeuppance. BUT how many suffered as a result of their neglect? - karen, spalding, 20/3/2010 14:36 Click to rate Rating 46 Report abuse Oh goody - another letter/apology from the pope. Last time he was sorry, this time he is really, really sorry. If that doesn't work, then maybe the next letter will say he is really, really, really sorry. Cardinal Brady hopes the Church can heal and be reborn - to me this feels like the Church is wanting to do the least amount possible so that business as usual can be resumed. What about the healing of the survivors of clerical abuse - there are charities working with survivors of abuse all over the world, that are constantly struggling for funds - put your money where your mouth is. The pope says he is willing to meet with victims - may I suggest that on his visit to the Uk, instead of queues of devotees lining up to kiss his ring, he instead prostrates himself in front of queues of victims, who can line up for the chance to tell him how being abused by priests and then retraumatised by the denial of the Catholic church has impacted on their lives. The church could pay travel costs.