The Pope's letter -- promised since he met in December with the president of the Irish prelates and the archbishop of Dublin -- responds to the scandal of sexual abuse that is racking the country.
"Today is the feast of St. Patrick, and in a special way I greet all the Irish faithful and pilgrims here present," he said at the conclusion of the English-language summary of the general audience.
The Pontiff continued: "As you know, in recent months the Church in Ireland has been severely shaken as a result of the child abuse crisis. As a sign of my deep concern I have written a pastoral letter dealing with this painful situation. I will sign it on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, the Guardian of the Holy Family and Patron of the Universal Church, and send it soon after."
Benedict XVI expressed his hope that the letter will "help in the process of repentance, healing and renewal."
"I ask all of you to read it for yourselves, with an open heart and in a spirit of faith," he said.
The Holy Father has taken an unprecedented role in helping the Church in Ireland deal with the widespread crisis. After his December meeting with Cardinal Sean Brady and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, he called all the acting Irish prelates to Rome in February for a two-day summit with himself and high-ranking members of the Curia.