/ 11 June 2010

Pope begs forgiveness for sexual abuse scandal

Pope Benedict begged forgiveness from God and victims of child sexual abuse by priests on Friday and vowed that the Catholic Church would do everything in its power to ensure that it never happens again.

Benedict made his comments, some of his clearest ever about the scandal that has swept the church around the world, during a homily in St Peter’s Square to conclude the Roman Catholic Church’s “Year of the Priest” celebrations.

Wearing white and gold vestments as he spoke to about 15 000 priests, Benedict said the year that was to have celebrated the priesthood had been marred because “the sins of priests came to light, particularly the abuse of the little ones”.

“We too insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again,” he said.

Hundreds of cases of sexual and physical abuse of youths by priests in recent decades have come to light in Europe and the United States as investigations encourage long-silent victims to finally go public with their complaints.

A group for victims said the pope had not gone far enough.

“These are strong words but not strong actions,” said Peter Isely of the US-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, whose leaders came to Rome for the event.

“The pope should have announced an absolute zero-tolerance approach to priests that abuse around the world, ensuring that they will be immediately removed from priesthood. This is a much more important move than showing remorse,” he told Reuters.

Benedict himself has been accused of turning a blind eye in 1980, when he was archbishop of Munich in his native Germany, to the case of a priest who was sent there for therapy after sexually abusing children and soon transferred to parish work.

The Vatican has said a subordinate took that decision. — Reuters