Twenty-four Irish Roman Catholic bishops received a tongue-lashing on 15 February 2010 from a top Vatican official as they began two days of unprecedented meetings with Pope Benedict XVI and his officials - writes Ray McMenamin.
The bishops are in Rome following the publication, on 26 November 2009, of an Irish government-commissioned report, led by Judge Yvonne Murphy, into how the Roman Catholic Church in Dublin dealt with allegations against priests of sexual abuse.
The day began with a Mass for the 24 Irish bishops before their encounter at the Vatican.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's Secretary of State, a right-hand man of the Pope, described the abuse scandal as "humiliating" and "abominable". "Yes, storms spark fear, even those that rock the boat of the church because of the sins of its members," said Bertone.
The Irish report had concluded that church authorities had covered up abuse from 1975 to 2004 and that bishops in the archdiocese were more concerned with the reputation of the church than the welfare of children.
The bishops are in Rome to discuss the implications of the report with the Pope Benedict, who is due to write a pastoral letter to Irish Catholics in the near future. The Primate of All-Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, is among those in attendance. He spoke to journalists at St Patrick's church in Rome on 14 February.
The Irish Times newspaper reported that Brady described the meeting as "one step in a process … which will lead to a journey of repentance, renewal and reconciliation".
Each of the 24 bishops spoke directly to the Pope for around seven minutes in the course of the meeting on 15 and 16 February.
The head of the communications commission of the Irish Bishops' Conference, the bishop of Clogher, Joseph Duffy, said, "I think each bishop will speak out of his own experience, how he has found things and where he feels things could be improved. And certainly there's room for improvement everywhere, we all admit that."
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]