The head of the Church of England has apologized for his remarks claiming that the Irish Catholic Church has "lost all credibility" over its involvement in the heated sex abuse scandal that has enveloped scores of Catholic clergy members.
The Rev. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, made the remarks during an interview on BBC, broadcast on Monday, in which he said: "I was speaking to an Irish friend recently who was saying that it's quite difficult in some parts of Ireland to go down the street wearing a clerical collar now. And an institution so deeply bound into the life of a society, suddenly becoming, suddenly losing all credibility - that's not just a problem for the Church, it is a problem for everybody in Ireland."
Williams' remarks were received with shock by clergy members from the Catholic and Anglican Churches alike, including Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin who said: "The unequivocal and unqualified comment in a radio interview of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, that the Catholic Church in Ireland has 'lost all credibility' has stunned me."
Martin added: "Speaking frankly, I have to say that in all my years as Archbishop of Dublin, in difficult times, I have rarely felt personally so discouraged as this morning when I woke to hear Archbishop Williams's comments."
Quickly following his response, Martin was telephoned by Williams who reportedly expressed "deep sorrow and regret" over his remarks.
On a Sunday program on BBC, Williams added that he, "didn't honestly think I was saying anything that had not been said by others about the Irish church, including leaders of the Irish church."
Referring to his conversation with Martin, Williams noted: "I was saying sorry that I had made life more difficult for the Archbishop of Dublin and his colleagues, who have indeed been trying to tackle this crisis with great imagination and great honesty."
Williams' criticism, which was dubbed as a "rare breach of ecumenical protocol" by the Times of London, comes ahead of a September visit to the UK by Pope Benedict, which a significant number of Britons have rallied against in light of the growing abuse scandal.
A petition against the Pope's visit, which was announced last month by Queen Elizabeth, has been reportedly signed by 10,000 Britons who are challenging the spiritual leader's immunity to prosecution over the Church's sex crimes.
Meanwhile, major media outlets have continued to clamor over Benedict's "unrepentant" character towards the scandal, noting the pontiff's omission of the topic in his public messages throughout Holy Week.
During the Vatican's Easter service, Benedict was rather hailed as the "unfailing rock" of the Catholic Church by senior clergy members, while other clergy throughout Europe, including Dublin, used their homilies to express regret over the scandal and to apologize to victims.
Benedict's Easter address was focused on humanity's need for the gospel to be free from sin, and that a deeper moral change is necessary for society to be transformed.
"It needs the salvation of the Gospel, so as to emerge from a profound crisis, one which requires deep change, beginning with consciences," said Benedict, who also gave condolences for the persecution of Christians in Pakistan and Iraq.