Pope writing letter to Irish Catholics about abuse

Letter will contain guidelines for preventing and punishing the sexual abuse of children by priests.

A letter from the Pope to the Catholics of Ireland, containing guidelines on preventing and punishing sexual abuse of children, will be read out at Sunday Mass.

It is unknown whether the letter includes an apology.

The Catholic Church has been rocked by fresh allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests.

What has previously been viewed as local scandal has escalated into a worldwide problem after allegations from countries including the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, and the Pope's native Germany

The measures set out by Pope Benedict in the letter will have a wider application than just in Ireland. The Vatican will publish the text of the letter on Saturday.

In a statement, the Pope said that he hopes it will "help in the process of repentance, healing and renewal".