Dublin: The leader of the world's Anglicans expressed "deep sorrow and regret" for saying the Catholic Church in Ireland was "losing all credibility" over the paedophile priests scandal.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams telephoned Diarmuid Martin, the Archbishop of Dublin and one of Ireland's most senior Catholics, to apologise for "difficulties which may have been created" by the remarks.
Martin had said he was "stunned" by Williams' "unequivocal and unqualified" criticism of the Catholic Church, which were made in a BBC radio interview to be broadcast on Monday.
But Williams told Martin that "nothing could have been farther from his intention than to offend or criticise the Irish Church," according to a statement released by the Archbishop of Dublin.
A spokeswoman for the Archbishop of Canterbury confirmed he had spoken to Martin and said he "had no intention of criticising or attacking" the Catholic Church.
She added: "The Church in Ireland continues to work tirelessly to deal with the scandal of abuse."
Religious observers have said Williams' comments were unusually outspoken and critical for the leader of another church, especially as they emerged over the Easter weekend.
Relations between the two churches have been strained since last October when Pope Benedict XVI offered disgruntled Anglicans an easier route to conversion to Catholicism.
Williams, the spiritual leader of more than 70 million Anglicans worldwide, said in the interview that the Irish Catholic Church was suffering a "colossal trauma" over the child sex abuse scandal.
"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," Williams said.
"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."
Martin said the timing of the comments at one of the most important times of the year for the Church had been particularly unhelpful.
"In all my years as Archbishop of Dublin in difficult times I have rarely felt personally so discouraged," he said.
Ireland, a strongly Catholic country, has been shaken by two major investigations in the last year detailing child sex abuse by priests stretching back decades -- and Church leaders' complicity in covering it up.
The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, has faced calls to resign after it emerged he had persuaded two child victims of abuse to agree not to talk about their experiences.
First Published: Sunday, April 04, 2010, 10:07