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c. 2011 Religion News Service

VATICAN CITY (RNS) A Vatican investigation of clerical sex abuse in Ireland has finished its “first phase,” the Vatican announced on Monday (June 6), but a published report of its findings may not appear until next year.

The announcement came four days after Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said that he was “increasingly impatient at the slowness in the process (of the probe) which began over a year ago.”

Pope Benedict XVI called for the investigation, known as an Apostolic Visitation, last March. The visitation was launched in November with the aim of assessing the church’s response to cases of abusive priests, assisting victims and protecting children under the church’s care.

On Monday, the Vatican said investigators had finished their on-site visits to Ireland’s dioceses and seminaries, and had received written responses to a questionnaire from leaders of religious orders that operate in the country. Visits to some religious communities will follow, the Vatican statement said.

“In the coming months,” the statement said, Vatican officials will make recommendations to bishops for the “spiritual renewal” of their dioceses. A final report will appear “by early 2012.”

Since 2003, four government-sponsored investigations have revealed widespread child abuse over several decades by Catholic clergy and members of religious orders in Ireland. The revelations have led three bishops to resign. A report on the most recent investigation, into the Diocese of Cloyne, is expected to appear as soon as this month.

The international investigation panel includes three Americans: Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston; Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York; and Sister Sharon Holland, a Michigan-based expert in church law.

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