A new row has broken out between the Irish government and the Vatican over the report into clerical sex abuse in the diocese of Cork.

Ministers and victim support groups have reacted with anger to denials from the Vatican to the findings in the Cloyne Report that clergy were told not to report abuse claims.

The Report is to be discussed in the Irish parliament on Wednesday with Justice Minister Alan Shatter already critical of comments from a Papal source.

Pope Benedict XVI’s spokesman Father Federico Lombardi went so far as to contradict the findings of the Cloyne Report when he said: “It is somewhat strange to see the Vatican criticized so heavily”.

Even though Fr Lambardi claimed to be speaking in a personal rather than an official capacity, his controversial remarks are seen as the Vatican’s first response to the Cloyne Report.

Fr Lombardi added: “There is no motive to interpret the letter in the way it has been, as an attempt to cover up cases of abuse. There is nothing in the letter which suggests not respecting the laws of the land.”

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Minister Shatter has slammed the comments from Fr Lombardi, ahead of Wednesday’s all-party debate on the Cloyne Report in the Irish parliament.

“These comments are disingenuous. I expected a more considered and formal response from the Vatican,” said Shatter.

Support groups have also slated the comments from the Papal spokesman and claimed they lacked credibility and represented insult to abuse victims.

Maeve Lewis, from the One in Four support group, said: “The response from Rome is completely without substance and nothing short of scandalous.

“The Vatican has to accept that it has been involved in creating a culture for children to be abused.

“Fr Lombardi’s response was further evidence, if needed, that the Vatican’s claim to prioritize the safety of children is completely lacking in credibility.”

In his interview with Radio Vatican, Fr Lombardi said the church wanted ‘truth and a clean-up’ of its operations in Ireland.

He said: “This report is a new step in the long and arduous walk to find the truth. This is a journey the Holy See does not feel apart from.

“Last year Pope Benedict apologized for the pain and suffering of those who had experienced abuse at the hands of priests in Ireland.”

Pope Benedict XVI’s spokesman Father Federico Lombardi