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Abuse Victims Demand Malta Meeting with Pope

Monday, 12 Apr 2010 09:37 PM

VATICAN CITY - Victims of paedophile priests in Malta have demanded a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI when he visits the island this weekend.

The demands came as the Vatican steps up its defence of action taken over abuse scandals, releasing new guidelines on Monday which state that accused priests should be handed over to civil authorities.

Eleven Maltese who claim to have been sexually abused as children by Roman Catholic priests demanded that the pope apologise personally when he visits the Mediterranean island on Saturday and Sunday.

If the pope agrees, it will be his first meeting with victims of predator priests since 2008, when he met groups in the United States and Australia.

"We are asking to meet the pope so he can apologise to us in person," Lawrence Grech told a news conference on behalf of the 11. "We want to meet the pope for a few minutes to help us heal and to overcome this trauma."

Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone noted at a news conference in Santiago on Monday that Benedict had met with "many victims... and is prepared to meet others."

The Catholic leadership has been thrown on the defensive by scandals which have erupted in Ireland, Austria, the United States and the pope's native Germany in recent months.

Benedict has faced allegations that he failed to take action against predator priests, both as head of the Vatican's top doctrinal and morals enforcer and earlier as the Munich archbishop.

On Friday he faced fresh charges that he dragged his feet over a predator priest in California.

The new guidelines posted Monday on the Vatican website www.vatican.va said priests accused of sex abuse should routinely be turned in to civil authorities.

"Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed," the guidelines state.

The document confirms that the pope can intervene directly to remove an offenders from the priesthood "in very grave cases where a civil criminal trial has found the cleric guilty of sexual abuse of minors or where the evidence is overwhelming."

The head of the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, praised the Church's handling of the abuse scourge on Monday.

The Church "is the only institution to address this problem that concerns all of society in an exemplary manner," editor-in-chief Giovanni Maria Vian told the foreign press in Rome.

In Santiago, Vatican number two Bertone said the pope was likely to take additional "surprising" initiatives against paedophilia by clergy.

He noted that other faiths suffered from the scourge of paedophilia and that the Catholic church made up only "a small percentage" of the thousands of cases in UN statistics.

The Vatican has been faulted for a perceived strategy of blaming the media for playing up the paedophile revelations, accusing them of trying to smear the pope.

Experts have said that the Vatican's approach was a sign of weakness, and that the Church should take full responsibility for the scandals.

But Vian praised the way the pope, who will turn 83 on Friday, has handled the scandals, describing him as a "great communicator", even if John Paul II stood out for his especially deft handling of the media.

"Each one has had his style," Vian said.

The heightened communications by the Vatican "reflect a realisation that they are taking a beating in the court of public opinion," said Vatican expert John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter in the United States.

"This has been an extraordinarily damaging story for them (and) they're trying to project a better image," Allen told AFP.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 
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VATICAN CITY - Victims of paedophile priests in Malta have demanded a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI when he visits the island this weekend.
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Monday, 12 Apr 2010 09:37 PM
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