DUBLIN - Pope Benedict XVI is acutely aware that recent years have been tough for Irish Catholics as a result of the clerical sex abuse scandals, said the new apostolic nuncio to Ireland.

Speaking during a Mass to mark his formal welcome as Pope Benedict's representative in Dublin Feb. 19, U.S. Archbishop Charles Brown said the pontiff understands "that these recent years have been difficult for Catholic believers in Ireland."

Archbishop Brown said the Pope was "scandalized and dismayed as he learned about the tragedy of abuse perpetrated by some members of the clergy and of religious congregations. He felt deeply the wounds of those who had been harmed and who so often had not been listened to."

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DUBLIN - Pope Benedict XVI's new representative to Ireland has promised to strengthen relations between the country and the Holy See.

Archbishop Charles Brown, a native of New York, spoke while presenting his credentials as apostolic nuncio to Ireland and dean of the country's diplomatic corps to President Michael Higgins.

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ROME - Cardinal Marc Ouellet led a penitential vigil to show contrition for the sexual abuse of children by priests and for the actions of Catholic officials who shielded the perpetrators from justice Feb. 7.

Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, presided over the vigil during a week-long symposium attended by representatives of 110 bishops’ conferences and 30 religious orders. The Feb. 6-9 conference, “Toward Healing and Renewal,” launched a global initiative aimed at improving efforts to stop clerical sexual abuse and better protect children and vulnerable adults. It was held at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University and is supported by the Vatican Secretariat of State and several other Vatican offices.

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A hundred-thousand welcomes is perhaps more students than little All Hallows College could actually accommodate, but that’s the welcome the Irish seminary extends to mature international students.

One-hundred-thousand welcomes in the Irish tongue is céad mile fåilte. And the first person to extend that Irish greeting to international students in the Renewal for Life Sabbatical program is a Canadian, Sr. Mary Ann Maxwell.

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DUBLIN - Declassified British documents reveal the extent to which Pope John Paul II tried unsuccessfully to intervene to end a 1981 hunger strike by Catholic prisoners in a British jail in Northern Ireland.

The documents claim that, after the pope sent a special envoy, the leader of the Provisional Irish Republican Army prisoners, Bobby Sands, was willing to suspend the fast just days before he died.

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ROME - Vatican representatives have completed the first phase of an investigation of major Catholic institutions in Ireland, ordered by Pope Benedict XVI to examine the response of Irish Church authorities to the clerical sex abuse scandal.

A statement from the Vatican press office June 6 said that apostolic visitators to four metropolitan dioceses, as well as seminaries and religious institutes, had turned over their reports to the competent Vatican agencies. Among the visitators were Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins and Ottawa’s Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J.

In the coming months, the statement said, bishops and leaders of religious orders will receive notices on what they should be doing “for the spiritual renewal” of the Irish Church.

The visitation was announced by Pope Benedict in March 2010 in a pastoral letter to Irish Catholics after an independent report showed widespread and historic abuse of minors on the part of Church figures in the overwhelmingly Catholic country. The report accused authorities of covering up and enabling a “culture of secrecy” regarding the problem.

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DUBLIN - Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley reportedly will tell Pope Benedict XVI that the Catholic Church in Ireland is “on the edge” of collapse due to the fallout from clerical abuse scandals.

O’Malley is one of several senior prelates — including Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins and Ottawa’s Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J. — charged by Pope Benedict with carrying out an apostolic visitation of the Irish Catholic Church following a series of highly critical judicial reports that revealed abuse by priests and a widespread culture of cover-up for decades among Church leaders.

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