Pope will sign letter to Irish Catholics Friday

UPDATE: The Vatican has announced the letter will be published Saturday.

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI said today that Friday he will sign his letter to the Catholics of Ireland on the sex abuse crisis and “send it soon after.”

Speaking in English at his weekly general audience, the pope said he wanted to mark the feast of St. Patrick by giving a special greeting to Irish visitors in St. Peter’s Square.

“As you know, in recent months the church in Ireland has been severely shaken as a result of the child abuse crisis,” the pope said. “As a sign of my deep concern I have written a pastoral letter dealing with this painful situation.

“I will sign it on the solemnity of St. Joseph (March 19), the guardian of the Holy Family and patron of the universal church, and send it soon after,” he said.

The pope asked people to read it for themselves “with an open heart and in a spirit of faith.”

“My hope is that it will help in the process of repentance, healing and renewal,” the pope said.

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