Pope Benedict XVI meets US victims of sexual abuse by catholic priests

Pope Benedict XVI has met the victims of abuse by pedophile priests in the United States.

22 April, 2008: In a rare gesture of candidness and humility, Pope Benedict XVI has met the victims of abuse by pedophile priests in the United States.

In the historic meeting, the first of its kind, the Pope offered the victims his support after he acknowledged the “pain and damage” caused by the Catholic Church’s sex scandal.

The German-born Pope Benedict, 81, had arrived in the United States on April 15, 2008, for a 6-day visit of the country.

It was after celebrating Mass with about 48,000 people that the Pope met a small group of five people who were sexually abused by members of the Catholic clergy, the news agency Associated Press quoted the Vatican as saying in a statement. The private meeting lasted about 25 minutes.

The statement from the Vatican added,“The group prayed together, and the Pontiff then listened to the stories of the victims and “offered them words of encouragement and hope. His Holiness assured them of his prayers for their intentions, for their families and for all victims of sexual abuse.”

CNN quoted some of the victims of sexual abuse by priests as having told the Pope that the Pontiff had given them hope that the Church would change.

Bernie McDaid, who was aged 12 when he was abused, told CNN,“I said to him, Holy Father, you have a cancer growing in your flock and you need to do something about that, and I hope you understand me and hear me. And, I touched his heart, and he nodded again. He looked down at the floor and looked back up, and nodded.”

Olan Horne, another victim of sexual abuse, told CNN in an interview,“When you meet somebody and you know that you don’t have to convince them that there’s a problem, and they intrinsically understand their role in it, you know it. And, we could see that. We could see it in the eyes, we could see it in the sincerity and there’s a phenomenal hope that I came out of that meeting with.”

Pope Benedict XVI has apologised several times since he began his first papal visit to the United States on April 15, 2008, admitting that he was “deeply ashamed” of the scandal which has shaken the Catholic Church in the US.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), a small group for victims of sexual abuse by priests, said in statement,“The meeting of the victims with the Pope was positive, but the Pope needs to do much more to reform the Church and prevent further abuse. This is a small, long overdue step forward on a very long road.”

The sex scandal involving Catholic priests in the United States had grown into a nationwide shame for the Church after Cardinal Bernard Law, who was then Archbishop of Boston, resigned in 2002 amidst strong protests over his handling of abusive priests.

Over 5000 priests were accused of molesting nearly 12,000 victims.

The US Catholic Church had paid out $615 million (400 million euros) in 2007 to settle sex abuse cases, according to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Pope also held a private meeting with Jewish leaders in Washington at which the Pontiff exhorted both Jews and Roman Catholics, according to the Vatican statement, to forge “new attitudes” to foster world peace.

The Pope said in a message he read to Jewish leaders: “I wish to reiterate the Catholic Church’s commitment to the dialogue that in the past 40 years has fundamentally changed our relationship for the better. I ask the Jewish community to accept my Passover greeting in a spirit of openness to the real possibilities of cooperation.”





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