Pope Benedict apologises for child abuse by priests

Pope Benedict XVI apologised on Saturday for Irish priests’ child sex abuse in a letter with far-reaching implications, but victims said it was not enough to address the growing scandal. [VATICAN CITY, March 20]. The pastoral letter, which came with the sex abuse scandal having spread to several countries, including the pope’s native Germany, also said Irish bishops had “failed” in addressing the problem. “You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry,” the pope said in the long-awaited letter to Irish Catholics to be read in all Irish dioceses, in which he also expressed “shame and remorse”. “I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced.” In the first pastoral letter to address the scandal, the pope said priests and religious workers guilty of child abuse “must answer” for their crimes “before properly constituted tribunals”. “Openly acknowledge your guilt, submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God’s mercy,” he said.

“I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated,” Benedict said. In the letter, signed on Friday, the pope harshly criticised the Irish episcopate in dealing with the allegations. The pope told offenders they had “betrayed the trust that was placed in you by young and innocent people” and “forfeited the esteem of the people of Ireland and brought shame and dishonour upon your confreres. The pope also announced a mission to Irish dioceses affected by sex scandals that would include a review of their conduct. Despite the letter’s remorse and criticism of Irish Catholic officials, victims in Ireland said they deserved more after years of being denied justice.

“Victims were hoping for an acknowledgement of the scurrilous ways in which they have been treated as they attempted to bring their experiences of abuse to the attention of the Church authorities,” said Maeve Lewis, director of the One in Four victims group.—AFP

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