VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI on Monday appointed nine prelates, including the archbishops of Boston and New York, to investigate child abuse in Ireland's Catholic institutions.
The pope urged the Irish church to support the investigation, saying it could be a chance for hope and renewal. In a March letter to the Irish faithful, Benedict had promised an investigation that addressed chronic clerical child abuse in Ireland and decades of cover-ups by church authorities.
Also Monday, the Vatican announced the pope had accepted the resignation of an Irish-born archbishop who had led the Benin City diocese in Nigeria and faced accusations that he carried on a 20-year relationship with a woman that began when she was 14.
Archbishop Richard Burke, 61, had been suspended. He was the latest bishop to resign amid the church abuse scandal, as Benedict moves to get rid of bishops who either admitted they molested youngsters or covered up for priests who did.
Child-abuse scandals have caused exceptional trauma in Ireland, a once-devoutly Catholic nation. An Irish government collapsed in 1994 amid arguments over its failure to extradite a pedophile priest to Northern Ireland. Since 2002, a government-organized compensation board has paid out more than $983 million to 13,000 people abused in Ireland's church-run residential institutions for children.
The investigation in Ireland will deal with the handling of cases of abuse and providing assistance to victims. It will begin in four archdioceses, including Dublin, and then be extended to other dioceses, the Vatican said. It will also look at seminaries and religious houses. Nine investigators will look at the procedures currently in place to prevent abuse and seek ways to improve them.