An Irish bishop has finally apologised after describing paedophilia as ‘a friendship that had crossed a boundary line.’

Bishop John Kirby said sorry for his remarks in an open letter read at masses throughout the Clonfert diocese on Sunday.

In the address, Bishop Kirby said he had never intended to minimise the gravity of the crime and apologised especially to survivors of child abuse.

However, the Bishop has never considered his position at any stage of the controversy and claimed that his comments had been taken out of context.

Bishop Kirby said: “What I failed to appreciate sufficiently at that time was the addictive and repetitive compulsion of sexual abuse.

“Unfortunately, my words last week, separated from their context, came across negatively. I am very sorry for any anxiety or embarrassment that I may have caused to people.

“I may have given the general impression that I was somehow minimising the gravity of the criminal activity which we know to be child sexual abuse.

“This was never my intention and I wish to apologise, especially to all survivors, on this point.”

The Irish Independent reports that the letter was sent to 24 parishes in east Galway and parts of Roscommon and Offaly.

The bishop also admitted in the public letter that he had made a mistake over the transfers of two abuser priests to new parishes.

Bishop Kirby had made the remarks about paedophilia after the publishing of a report that criticised him for his role in moving two abuser priests in the mid-90s.

The report says that at the time of the report’s publication, Bishop Kirby said he thought paedophilia was ‘a friendship that crossed a boundary line’ and claimed that he believed he would solve the problem by separating the priest from the child.

Politicians, charity heads and even clergy called for his resignation.

The report into the safeguarding practices in the Clonfert Diocese found that the bishop had dealt ‘inappropriately’ with abuse allegations.

Bishop Kirby added: “I cannot apologise enough to survivors of abuse for the pain that you suffer. I utterly condemn the actions of the two priests, referred to in the review, who sexually abused in this diocese in the past.

“I take full responsibility for my actions. There is no question but I made serious mistakes in the early to mid-1990s by moving two priests who had abused into different parishes.”