BY MURRAY wiirrE THE CHURCH CANNOT defend the actions of priests or religious who abuse children, a Catholic bishop declares this Sunday in a New Year letter to his diocese.
In what amounts to one of the clearest apologies by an English prelate, following a spate of recent revelations about child abuse cases involving clergy in Ireland and Britain, Bishop Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth says that Catholics all feel "shamed" by recent events.
Bishop Hollis, who describes the mood of the moment within the Catholic community as one of "silent suffering and much prayer", goes on to call on fellow Catholics "to do all we can to bind up the wounds of those who have been abused and exploited.
"We have been shocked and saddened by news of scandal within the Church. There is no way in which we would want to defend priests or religious who commit crimes of abuse against children, but it is important to remember that they are very few in number", said the Bishop.
Bishop Hollis's pastoral letter follows a public apology by Cardinal Cahal Daly, Ireland's most senior prelate, last week that the Church had poorly handled recent child abuse cases. Speaking on the BBC Radio Four programme, Sunday Matters, the Cardinal said that the Church had been "humiliated and shamed" by such cases.
"We apologise humbly and sincerely to people who have ,suffered", said Cardinal Daly.