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Scandals and Abuses of Catholic Priests
« on: April 19, 2010, 10:00:12 AM »
Agence France-Presse

Pope Benedict XVI wept as he met Maltese victims of the pedophile 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 pedophilia."

Malta recently joined the list of countries shattered by pedophilia 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 pedophilia "response team" it set up in 1999 had received allegations against 45 priests.

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

Malta has also been scandalized by revelations that a suspected pedophile priest has retired here from Canada.

Amid the global furor over pedophile 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.

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