Cardinal forced to send personal plea to the Pope after string of abuse allegations

Walsh was defrocked only after Cardinal Desmond Connell wrote to the Rome Rota, the church's appellate court, explaining he could not find a monastery willing to house him and could not reassign him to a parish overseas - a common church practice for managing paedophile priests - because he had been charged with crimes.

Finally the cardinal appealed in a letter seeking the personal intercession of Pope John Paul II to defrock Walsh. "The archbishop humbly begs the Holy Father graciously to grant him this favour in the interests of the well-being of the church," he wrote.

The report documented how the future pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, replied in January 1996 confirming that John Paul had expelled Walsh from the priesthood.

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But after Walsh was paroled from prison in 2002, the report said, he continued to travel around Ireland masquerading as a priest and winning the confidence of children, more than 20 of whom reported sexual assaults.

He faced fresh criminal charges when three more of his victims from Ballyfermot in the late 1970s and 1980s came forward.

Last week he received prison sentences that total 123 years - the greatest ever imposed on a paedophile priest in Ireland - but the system will recognise only the first 12 years.