Pope promises action on abuse

By  Catholic News Service
  • April 23, 2010
Pope MaltaVATICAN CITY - Three days after promising sex-abuse victims in Malta that he would do all he could to bring offenders to justice, Pope Benedict XVI told a Vatican audience that he “assured” the Maltese men of  “Church action” to address priestly sexual abuse.

In a rare public statement April 21 on the sex-abuse scandal, Benedict recounted his meeting with eight Maltese men who were molested as children by priests.

“I shared their suffering and emotionally prayed with them,” the Pope told pilgrims and tourists during his weekly public audience at St. Peter’s Square.

During an apostolic visit to Malta, the Pope had promised abuse victims in a private meeting that the Church would do “all in its power” to bring offenders to justice and protect children.

In a statement afterwards, the Pope said he was “deeply moved by their stories and expressed his shame and sorrow over what victims and their families have suffered.”

“He prayed with them and assured them that the church is doing, and will continue to do, all in its power to investigate allegations, to bring to justice those responsible for abuse and to implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people in the future,” the statement said.

“In the spirit of his recent letter to the Catholics of Ireland, he prayed that all the victims of abuse would experience healing and reconciliation, enabling them to move forward with renewed hope.”

The meeting at the apostolic nunciature in Rabat happened at the request of victims who wanted to tell the Pope of their ordeal and receive an apology. The encounter was not part of the Pope’s official itinerary during his 27-hour visit to Malta, and was only announced publicly by the Vatican after it had happened.

Participants said the victims cried as they told their stories, and that the Pope had tears in his eyes as he listened during the 20-minute meeting.

“We now have peace in our hearts, even because the Pope found time to meet us. We now look forward to the end of the court case, and closure of this chapter,” one unidentified victim told the Times of Malta.

The victims, in their 30s and 40s, met with the Pope one by one to tell their story, said papal spokesperson Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi.

One victim said the Pope gave each of them a rosary and promised them they would be in his prayers.

“I admire the Pope for his courage in meeting us. He was embarrassed by the failings of others,” Lawrence Grech, a victim, told the Maltese paper.

During his public events in Malta, the Pope did not refer explicitly to the problem of sexual abuse. He did make two subtle references to the problem when he spoke to journalists aboard the papal flight to Malta.

Speaking about the vitality of the Catholic faith in Malta, he said even when the body of the church “is wounded by our sins, God loves this Church, and its Gospel is the true force that purifies and heals.”

He then spoke of how St. Paul turned the tragedy of being shipwrecked on Malta into a positive opportunity when he decided to heal the sick and preach the power of Christ. Out of tragedy can come a new beginning and “life’s shipwrecks can be part of God’s plan for us and they may also be useful for new beginnings in our lives,” the Pope said.

Lombardi said the Pope’s comments were in reference to the sex abuse crisis facing the church.

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