Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston and Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York are among five senior clergy who have commenced a Vatican-directed trip  to Ireland to follow up on the child abuse issue.

Cardinal O’Malley and Cardinals Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and Archbhops Sean Collins and Terence Prendergast S.J. will visit the four major archdioceses while Archbishop Dolan will be visiting seminaries, North and South.

The visiting Americans and the others will make themselves available to meet with abuse victims and also check on new guidelines laid down by the Vatican on avoiding child abuse.

Two major inquiries in Ireland revealed a shocking series of abuse cases which rocked the Irish church to its foundation.

Their meetings “will directly address the problem of sexual abuse that prompted the Pope's letter to Irish Catholics, along with charges that Irish bishops acted to conceal cases of abuse against disclosure or prosecution,” according  to the Catholic News Service.

The Vatican guidelines also recommended that the major archdioceses hold penance service when the archbishops are there to acknowledge the failure of their child protection efforts.

Ireland is facing a major vocation shortage. The Times of London recently noted that 107 priests died in 2007 and only nine were ordained.

Two nuns and two priests will also visit and seek ways to overcome the  vocation shortage.

The arrival of the senior church leaders was announced by Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Vatican press office.

Harsh words from the Irish Times for the Catholic church in Ireland