The Vatican is to publish later on Saturday a letter from Pope Benedict XVI to Irish Catholics, in which he apologizes for the sex abuse by priests.
The pastoral letter, considered the first public statement by the Vatican, is being watched closely by Catholics from Boston to Berlin to see if it also acknowledges decades of Vatican-approved cover-ups.
During recent months, the Vatican has been hit by a series of damaging scandals over allegations of child molestation and physical abuse across European Catholic institutions.
Many have blamed the Vatican for shielding pedophile clergymen from prosecution. The scandals first emerged in Canada and Australia in the 1980s, followed by Ireland in the 1990s and, in recent months, Benedict’s German homeland.
As the papal letter is to be released, opinion is divided in Ireland on whether the Church can ever regain its moral authority.
The letter follows a series of accusatory Irish government reports last year into pedophilia within the Irish Roman Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict has expressed hope that the communication “will help in the process of repentance, healing, and renewal.”