Video: Pope faces pressure to respond to clerical sex abuse

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    >> massachusetts.

    >>> overseas tonight, a serious and expanding problem for the catholic church . allegations of physical and sexual abuse are rocking the church after questions are being asked as well about the german-born pope benedict himself. the story tonight from donna friesen.

    >> reporter: across europe there is growing unease among catholics. every day, says this german woman, i pray that the people who do these things will stop. in germany alone sox 300 allegations of abuse have emerged since january. complaints about sexual abuse and beatings in catholic churches and church-run school stretch back decades and questions about who knew what reach all what it to the top. in 1980 , pope benedict was arch bishop of munich, a pedophile priest in his diocese was sent for therapy, went on to reoffend and after being convicted continued as a priest until finally being suspended this week. the vatican has defended the pope. "he was," says a spokesman, "definitely not involved in the decision to allow this priest to return to work." some german catholics say the pope has a moral obligation to speak up.

    >> one word of mercy would be great.

    >> reporter: today germany 's chancellor addressed the issue in parliament. "the only way to deal with these cases is with truth and transparency about everything that's happened." in his weekly audience today, the pope did address the scandal, not in germany but in ireland, saying the church there had been severely shaken and he is writing a letter to the faithful.

    >> my hope is to help in the process of repentence, healing and renewal.

    >> reporter: as ireland celebrated st. patrick's day, senior cardinal sean brady was saying sorry for his part in covering up abuse. last week brady admitted he was present in 1975 when two altar boys who had been sexually abused by a priest were asked to sign oaths of secrecy rather than take their complaints to the police, the latest revelation in a church mired by scandal looking for direction from its pope. donna friesen, nbc news, london.

    >>> here in new york on

updated 3/17/2010 7:24:06 PM ET 2010-03-17T23:24:06

Pope Benedict XVI said Wednesday that he hoped a letter he plans to send to Irish Catholics about the child sex abuse scandal in the church would help with "repentance, healing and renewal" there.

Benedict acknowledged the Irish church had been "severely shaken" as a result of the crisis and said he was "deeply concerned."

However, speaking in English at his weekly general audience, the pontiff did not make any mention of the issue in his homeland, Germany.

The scandal in Germany, where some 300 former Catholic students have come forward with claims of physical or sexual abuse, is particularly sensitive because it has landed the sexual abuse allegations on the doorstep of a sitting pope.

In scope and numbers, however, the Irish crisis is much greater. There, three government-ordered investigations have documented a shocking catalog of child abuse and church cover-ups from the 1930s to 1990s involving more than 15,000 children.

Benedict said that he would sign the pastoral letter Friday and send it to the faithful soon thereafter.

"I ask all of you to read it (the letter) for yourselves, with an open heart and in a spirit of faith," he said.

"My hope is that it will help in the process of repentance, healing and renewal."

Cardinal 'ashamed'
At St. Patrick's Day Mass, Ireland's highest ranking church member, Cardinal Sean Brady apologized to Irish Catholics.

Brady has faced calls for his resignation following revelations that he failed to report to police allegations of abuse by two victims of the notorious pedophile priest Brendan Smyth in 1975.

"I have listened to reaction from people to my role in events 35 years ago. I want to say to anyone who has been hurt by any failure on my part that I apologize to you with all my heart," Brady said in a sermon at Armagh cathedral in Northern Ireland.

"I also apologize to all those who feel I have let them down," Brady said. "Looking back I am ashamed that I have not always upheld the values that I profess and believe in."

Brady added that the church "must humbly continue to deal with the enormity of the hurt caused by abuse of children by some clergy and the hopelessly inadequate response to that abuse in the past," the BBC reported. "This week a painful episode from my own past has come before me," he said.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel called the sex abuse scandal there a major challenge to German society and warned the only way to come to terms with it was to "find out everything that has happened."

Merkel's comments to parliament on Wednesday came amid growing impatience from Germany's Roman Catholics for Benedict to address the situation there.

'A despicable crime'
Merkel stressed in her remarks — her first public statement on the German scandal — that it was important not to point fingers.

"I think that we all agree that sexual abuse of minors is a despicable crime and the only way for our society to come to terms with it is to look for the truth and find out everything that has happened," Merkel told parliament. "The damage suffered by the victims can never fully be repaired."

In the ensuing weeks, victims from the Bavarian Alps to the northern Rhineland have surfaced nearly every day with fresh allegations of abuse by priests and teachers, including at the school linked to the renown Regensburger Domspatzen boys choir led for three decades by the pope's brother the Rev. Georg Ratzinger.

Claims have also come from former students of some of Germany's top boarding schools.

"Let's not oversimplify things," Merkel said. "We need to speak about the statute of limitations, we can address the idea of compensation, but the main issue is that this is a major challenge for our society."

A spokesman for Germany's Roman Catholic Church had said Wednesday before the pope's general audience that the pontiff could mention Germany later this week in conjunction with his letter to Irish Catholics.

"We certainly can not rule out that he will use this opportunity to address the situation in Germany, it is his homeland," Karl Juesten told the ARD broadcaster.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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