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Pope in Australia, to apologise for sex scandal

Latest update : 2008-07-13

Pope Benedict XVI landed in Australia Sunday, where he will apologise for a sexual abuse scandal that has shaken the Roman Catholic Church in the country. He also aims to speak on lifestyle changes that may help save the planet.

 

DARWIN - Pope Benedict landed in Australia on Sunday where he says he will apologise for a sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Roman Catholic Church in the country, vowing that everything possible would be done to prevent a recurrence.

 

The Pope, on his way to Australia for the Church's World Day of Youth, also told reporters during an in-flight news conference that he hoped the Anglican Church would not suffer a schism or further fractures because of a decision to ordain women bishops.

 

He also said he wanted his presence among hundreds of thousands of young people to be an impulse for the protection of the environment in order to "rediscover in the earth the face of the creator" and effect lifestyle changes to save the planet.

 

"It is essential for the Church to reconcile, to prevent, to help and also to see (its) guilt," he said. "It must be clear. Being a priest is incompatible with this behaviour because priests are in the service of our Lord," he said.

 

"We have to reflect on what was insufficient and our education and our teaching (of priests). This is the essential content of what we will say (as we) apologise," he said, adding, "we will do everything possible to heal and reconcile with victims".

 

The issue of sexual abuse of minors by priests has been a major scandal in several countries around the world after local churches were found to have moved the abusers from parish to parish instead of defrocking them or reporting them to authorities.

 

When he visited the United States last April Pope Benedict spoke repeatedly about the "shame" the scandal had wrought on the Catholic Church. He also met with abuse victims.

 

Broken Rites, a group which represents abuse victims in Australia, has a list of 107 convictions for sexual abuse but says the real number is higher and only a handful go to court.

 

Victims say the Catholic Church in Australia continues to cover up abuse by clergy despite issuing an apology for past abuse and compensation.

 

Some victims of sexual abuse plan to protest during the Pope's visit to Sydney.

 

FRAGMENTATION

 

Another main issue discussed by the Pope during the in-flight meeting with reporters was the crisis gripping the Anglican Church, which risks fragmentation over a decision by a Church synod to ordain women bishops.

 

The decision, which follows the admission of women to the priesthood, has prompted a number of Anglicans opposed to the move to express a desire to convert to Catholicism.

 

"My essential contribution can only be prayer," he said in response to a question about the current crisis in the 70-million-member Anglican community, whose mother church, the Church of England, split with Rome in 1534.

 

Next week, Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is hosting the Lambeth Conference, the 10-yearly meeting of Anglican bishops from around the world.

 

But the conference faces mass defections by conservatives, mainly from Africa, Asia and South America, who were vehemently opposed to the ordination of openly gay U.S. bishop Gene Robinson and the blessing of same-sex marriages in Canada.

 

"The desire is that schisms and new fractures can be avoided," Pope Benedict said, adding that Catholic Church would not "intervene immediately" in their decisions.

 

The Pontiff also said a main theme of the youth festivities in Sydney would be to raise consciences about environmental problems.

 

He said he hoped his trip could provide an impetus "to face this great challenge to rediscover in the earth the face of the creator, to rediscover our responsibility before the creator for his creation that has been entrusted to us, to find the ethical capacity for a style of life that is necessary if we want to change the problems."

 

After landing for a refuelling stop in Darwin in northern Australia, the papal plane will continue on to Sydney. He returns to Rome on July 21.

Date created : 2008-07-13

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