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Pope To Meet Irish Bishops Over Child Abuse Report

Pope Benedict XVI on Monday began a two-day special meeting with Irish Catholic bishops to discuss their response to a report that revealed the abuse of children by several members of the Catholic clergy in Ireland.

The report, which was released in November, alleged that the Catholic Church in Ireland had "obsessively" hidden "widespread" child abuse by several Catholic priests from 1975 to 2004.

The report also criticized the way in which Dublin Archdiocese's handled the priests suspected of involvement in such child abuse cases, adding that it operated on a policy of "don't ask, don't tell" regarding the reported abuse cases.

The damning report was submitted in November by the Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation, which was created in 2006 by the Irish government to probe the allegations of child abuse by the Catholic clergy.

Ahead of Monday's meeting, the Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertoneb described the sexual acts committed against children as "particularly abominable" and "humiliating" during a Mass attended by the Irish bishops.

Bertoneb also urged the Irish bishops to face the challenge created by the report, saying: "Every kind of challenge can become a reason for purification and sanctification as long as it is illuminated by faith."

The pope has already held a meeting with senior Irish bishops to discuss the report, and some four Irish bishops have already resigned for their alleged failure to respond sternly to reports of child abuse and to address the public concerns triggered by the issue.

After his meeting with the Irish Catholic bishops over the issue last week, Pope Benedict XVI said that he was "deeply disturbed and distressed" by the findings of the report, adding that he shared the feeling of outrage, betrayal and shame" felt by Irish people.

The pope also reiterated the Vatican's condemnation of child abuse and promised the Irish people that the Catholic Church would devise policies and strategies for ensuring that such cases of child abuse by the clergy do not happen again.

However, the victims demand more action from the Vatican to restore the trust of the Irish people in the Catholic Church and have asked the pope in a letter to instruct the bishops "to comply fully with civil child protection guidelines, including the mandatory reporting of all concerns or complaints to the civil authorities for investigation".

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