The Prefect and the Secretary of the Congregation for Bishops and representatives from the Holy See have held a preparatory meeting with the Apostolic Visitators named by Pope Benedict for the  upcoming Apostolic Visitation to the Church in Ireland.

The Visitation of the Church in Ireland was first announced last March by Pope Benedict XVI in his Pastoral Letter to Catholics of that nation in the wake of the horrific revelations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

A press release was issued by the Irish Bishop’s Conference on Wednesday after the conclusion of meetings at the Vatican between bishops charged with carrying out the visitation to the four Metropolitan Archdioceses of Ireland with Congregation heads.

The visitators are Cardinals Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and Seán O’Malley and Archbishops Thomas Collins and Terrence T. Prendergast.

Mindful of the tragic abuse of children that has taken place in Ireland, the statement underlines that the visitation is pastoral in nature and “is intended to assist the local Church on her path of renewal” and a sign of the Holy Father’s desire, as the Successor of Peter, to offer his pastoral solicitude to the Church in Ireland.

The Visitators will give “particular attention to victims of abuse and their families, but will also meet with and listen to a variety of people, including ecclesiastical authorities, lay faithful and those involved with the crucial work of safeguarding of children”.

The Archbishops of the four major Archdiocese, Cardinal Seán Brady of Armagh, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Archbishop Dermot Clifford of Cashel and Emly, and Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam also attended the meetings.

The statement concludes that “all participants are hopeful that this significant endeavour will be an instrument of purification and healing for the Church in Ireland and help to restore the trust and hope of the faithful there”.