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Pope meets with sex abuse victims

April 17, 2008 8:32:45 PM PDT
Pope Benedict the XVI met privately with five victims of clergy sex abuse. This decision by the pope to meet personally with victims of sexual abuse could go a long way toward healing the wound that is the sexual abuse scandal within the Roman Catholic Church.

The pope met privately with a small group of victims of abuse from the Boston area. That is the city where the sexual abuse scandal ignited. And the pope met with them in Washington, D.C., at the Papal Nunciature, the Vatican embassy in Washington. That's where he's been staying.

The meeting Thursday was not on the pope's public schedule. It was arranged with the assistance of Boston's cardinal Sean O'Malley. The pope talked and prayed with a group of' abuse survivors, believed to be about five for six. Each of them spent a few minutes privately with the pope.

"He prayed to the heavenly father and offered words of encouragement and hope. His Holiness assured them and for all the victims of sexual abuse," said Rev. Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesperson.

And earlier Thursday at that huge public Mass in Washington's Nationals Park, the pope took time in his homily to again directly address that scandal. And in fact, that was the third time in three days that he spoke on this issue.

"No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse. It is important that those who have suffered be given loving attention," he said.

"We talked about that, the importance of addressing it forthrightly, which he has agreed to do and he knows the situation very well. And he will address it again, I'm sure, talking to the priests," said Chicago's Francis Cardinal George.

George was referring to the meeting the pope is going to have with priests when he arrives in New York City. That meeting will take place at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Advocates for abuse victims say the pope's action Thursday is encouraging. But they still believe more should be done, including disciplining bishops who were accused of moving pedophile priests from parish to parish.

The former head of the Boston archdiocese, Bernard Law, is in that category. He now has a prominent post in Rome.

"We'd like for him to expose the names of these predators. We'd like him to discipline bishops who enable and cover up for these predators," said Barbara Blaine, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

The other side of this story is the damage that's been done to good priests and the reputation of the church. George says the pope will speak to that when he comes to New York.

"There will be words of encouragement. Less than three percent of priests did this. It was a terrible thing, but everybody is not responsible," said George.

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