The four archbishops of Ireland will travel to Rome next week to meet members of the Apostolic Visitation – the body appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to address the clerical handling of the sexual abuse scandal in Ireland.
Cardinal Seán Brady, head of the Catholic Church in Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh, will be leading the delegation. He will be joined by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Archbishop Dermot Clifford of Cashel and Emly, and Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam.
They have been invited by the Congregation for Bishops to help prepare for the Visitation, expected to take place in the autumn.
The Apostolic Visitation was announced by Pope Benedict earlier this year in his pastoral letter to Irish Catholics following the publication of the Ryan and Murphy reports. While the Ryan report indicated that abuse of children was rampant in Catholic-run institutions in Ireland, the Murphy report accused the Church of promoting a “culture of secrecy” and covering up the abuse.
In announcing the Visitation, the Vatican had pointed out that it was meant “to offer assistance and to contribute to the spiritual and moral renewal of the Church in Ireland”.
The Visitation will begin its work in the archdioceses of Armagh, Cashel and Emly, Dublin and Tuam before moving on to other dioceses. It includes the former Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley of Boston, Archbishop Thomas Christopher Collins of Toronto and the Archbishop Terrence Thomas Prendergast of Ottawa.
In his pastoral letter, the Pope had promised to take concrete steps to root out the problems within the Irish Church, acknowledging there had been “a misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church and the avoidance of scandal” on the part of Church authorities.