Pope writes to Irish Catholics

The Vatican says Pope Benedict XVI's letter to Irish Catholics on a developing sex scandal will be released Saturday.

Pope Benedict XVI's letter to Irish Catholics on a developing sex scandal will be released Saturday, the Vatican said Thursday.

The Pope hopes the letter will help repair some of the damage caused by the scandal, which stretched from the 1930s to the 1990s and is estimated to have involved more than 15,000 children.

The Vatican's press office said the text of the letter will be released Saturday at noon, Central European Time.

On Wednesday, Cardinal Sean Brady, the head of Ireland's Catholic church, apologized for his handling of a case involving an abusive priest decades ago. Under some pressure to leave his position, Brady said he doesn't know what his future holds.

Ireland is not the only country where the church is struggling to deal with abuse allegations.

In Austria, one priest criticized the pontiff for his handling of the abuse scandal.

Speaking to broadcaster ORF, Father Udo Fischer, who leads a parish in the village of Paudorf, said it was "very bad" that the Pope has been quiet on the subject to this point.

Fischer said Benedict should have taken a strong stance long ago.

The priest said he believes Catholics will become disenchanted if the Pope does not offer a personal apology and bring in changes.

Reinhard Marx, the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, is seen at a news conference Thursday after the Freising Bishop Conference in Bavaria. ((Michael Probst/Associated Press))
In Germany, bishops in the state of Bavaria said they are "ashamed and shocked" at the scope of a sex-abuse scandal there. The bishops issued a call for prayers for the victims.

About 100 former students of church-run schools in Bavaria have come forward to say church officials abused them.

Reinhard Marx, the archbishop of Munich and Freising, was due to meet Thursday with other church leaders.

On Wednesday, Marx called for rebirth in the church in the scandal in the Pope's home country.

With files from The Associated Press