Survivors of clerical abuse tonight demanded leadership and accountability from Pope Benedict as bishops prepared for a major Vatican summit over the devastating scandals.
The 24 senior clergymen will take part in unprecedented two-day talks after being hauled before the Pontiff over the sexual abuse revelations that have rocked the Irish church.
John Kelly, of the Survivors of Child Abuse support group, said they want Pope Benedict to take firm action to restore the church in Ireland and provide proper financial compensation to victims.
“We’ve asked the Pontiff to restore the honour to the Irish nation,” Mr Kelly said.
“The honour that was so severely damaged at home and abroad by the atrocities committed by the anti-Christ over the last 50 years.
“To restore the true Church to Ireland. Because it wasn’t up to now.”
A similar Vatican meeting took place in 2002 when US cardinals were invited to Rome by then Pope John Paul II to discuss abuse scandals involving the American church.
It came under fire for its handling of a series of abuse allegations as well as covering up misconduct and moving alleged abusers from job to job.
Meetings will be held in the Vatican throughout tomorrow and on Tuesday morning, with the Pope and up to seven of his senior Cardinals and aides expected to attend.
All-Ireland Primate Cardinal Sean Brady will open the summit with a presentation, before each Bishop is given seven minutes to speak.
Michael O’Brien, a former Fianna Fáil politician and abuse survivor, demanded the Pope apologise to the people of Ireland.
“We want the Pope to make a proper apology to Ireland, for what happened in Ireland,” he said.
“We don’t want a bland apology, we want an apology to those of us in Ireland who were abused and to the people of Ireland who are 100% behind us on this.”
“This is not an Irish problem. This is a Catholic Church worldwide problem. Religious orders, world wide problem.”
The invitation was extended to all Diocesan Bishops last month in the wake of the abuse revelations contained in both the Ryan and Murphy reports.
A spokesman for the bishops said they prepared for the meeting by speaking with abuse survivors, lay people and priests.
“It is expected the discussions will be frank and open,” he said.
Pope Benedict has also promised a pastoral letter to Irish Catholics over the abuse scandals, but it is not known when this will be published.
Four bishops dramatically resigned in December after the Murphy inquiry unveiled a catalogue of paedophilia and subsequent cover-ups over three decades by the Catholic hierarchy in Dublin.
Auxiliary Bishops of Dublin Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field bowed to weeks of intense pressure and announced at Christmas Eve services that they were quitting their posts.
They were the latest senior clerics to stand down after Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin James Moriarty and Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray also resigned over the damning report.
Current Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan, also named in the Murphy report, has repeatedly faced down calls for his resignation.
Abuse survivors met Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin on Saturday to insist he convey the distress of families to the Pope and that the Pontiff accept the resignations of Bishops Moriarty, Walsh and Field.
They also called on Pope Benedict to remove Bishop Drennan from office immediately and other bishops who failed to challenge the culture of cover-up.
Bishop Murray will not attend the summit nor will Bishop of Cloyne John Magee who stood aside last March over his mishandling of abuse allegations in his diocese.
Bishop Moriarty will attend as his resignation as not yet been accepted by the Vatican.
Auxiliary Bishops Walsh and Bishop Field will not be going as only diocesan bishops were invited.
Meanwhile more than 150 people attended a meeting organised by the Survivors of Child Abuse in central Dublin today.
Mr Kelly said any plans for a national memorial to the victims must proceed at the same time as plans for financial compensation.