Tags: Pope | abuse | victims | weep

Pope Weeps With Church Abuse Victims

Monday, 19 Apr 2010 10:30 AM


VALLETTA - Pope Benedict XVI wept as he met Maltese victims of the paedophile priest scandals rocking the Roman Catholic Church on Sunday and expressed his own "shame and sorrow".

"He listened to us individually, and prayed and cried with us," said Lawrence Grech, one of eight abuse victims who met the pope for 25 minutes in the Vatican's embassy in Malta.

The Vatican said that Benedict "expressed his shame and sorrow over what victims and their families have suffered."

The pope "prayed with them and assured them that the Church is doing, and will continue to do, all in its power to investigate allegations (and) to bring to justice those responsible for abuse," a Vatican statement said.

Benedict promised the victims "effective measures designed to safeguard young people in the future," it added.

Grech told AFP he was impressed by Benedict's "humility," adding that the 83-year-old pontiff "was ready to take on the embarrassment (for deeds) done by others. He was very courageous."

The pope was "the topmost person who could have listened to me and my story," Grech said. "I will continue my battle, not against the Church but against paedophilia."

Malta recently joined the list of countries shattered by paedophilia priest scandals in the past several months.

Grech and other members of the group gave a press conference last week at which they told how they were abused at an orphanage in central Malta run by priests.

Benedict, who met with victims in Australia and the United States in 2008, has come under increasing pressure over allegations that the Vatican hierarchy, himself included, helped protect predator priests.

While the Vatican and senior bishops have rallied around the pope, the Catholic leadership has faced mounting pressure to repair the Church's image.

On the flight to Malta on Saturday, the pope said Church had been "wounded by our sins".

"Malta loves Christ who loves his Church which is his body, even if this body is wounded by our sins," he said.

Predominantly Catholic Malta, where one in three children under 16 attend Catholic schools, has itself been hit by numerous abuse cases.

The Maltese Church revealed recently that a paedophilia "response team" it set up in 1999 had received allegations against 45 priests.

Although nearly nearly half of these had been ruled groundless, it added: "For the Church, every case is one too many."

Malta has also been scandalised by revelations that a suspected paedophile priest has retired here from Canada.

Amid the global furore over paedophile priests, the pope has faced an uphill challenge in getting across the messages he had planned for Malta -- notably on immigration.

Malta is the smallest member of the European Union with a population of some 443,000. It lies halfway between Sicily and the north African coast, and took in a record nearly 3,000 boat people in 2008.

Hundreds remain crowded into detention centres awaiting word of their fate.

Benedict has called several times over the past few months for fair and human solutions on the issue.

Malta has one priest for every 490 Catholics, compared with a global average of one in nearly 2,900, according to Church statistics.

Abortion is illegal though an increasing number of Maltese are in favour of overturning the ban on divorce.

During the visit the pope reiterated the Vatican's anti-divorce stance.

"Your nation should continue to stand up for the indissolubility of marriage," he said. "And for the true nature of the family, just as it does for the sacredness of human life from conception to natural death."

Benedict left Malta in the evening to return to the Vatican, completing his 14th overseas trip since 2005 and the first this year.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.



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Monday, 19 Apr 2010 10:30 AM
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