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Benedict XVI willing to meet more sex abuse victims

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-04-09

The Vatican said on Friday Pope Benedict XVI was willing to hold new meetings with people who were sexually abused in their childhood by Catholic priests.

REUTERS - The Vatican said on Friday Pope Benedict is willing to meet more victims of sexual abuse and acknowledged that the Church will have to be more careful in choosing future priests in order to avoid future cases of abuse.

In a long commentary, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi repeated an offer to meet victims that the pope made in a letter to Ireland’s Catholics last month but did not elaborate.

The pope has already met victims of sexual abuse by priests during his visits to the United States and Australia.

In response to the offer, SNAP, a U.S.-based group of victims, said they wanted substance and not symbols. “Symbols may be appropriate after a crisis, but not during one,” a SNAP leader said.

Lombardi said Pope Benedict had been the target of
“unfounded insinuations” and that he would be able to guide the Church with “rectitude and certainty in this difficult time.”

His defence of the pope on Vatican Radio was the latest response to a string of accusations that the Church mishandled and covered up abuse of children by priests in several countries, sometimes for decades.

“Looking forward, the formation and selection of candidates for the priesthood, and more generally the personnel in educational and pastoral institutions, are the premise for an efficient prevention of possible abuse,” he said.

He added that choosing men “with a healthy maturity of personality, even from the sexual point of view, has always been a difficult challenge but today it is even more so”.

Shaken by the crisis, the Vatican has accused the media of waging a “despicable campaign of defamation” against the pope. Some reports have accused the pope of negligence in handling abuse cases in previous roles as a cardinal in his native Germany, and in Rome.

Vatican denies cover-up

The Vatican has denied any cover-up in the abuse of 200 deaf boys in the United States by Reverend Lawrence Murphy from 1950 to 1974. The New York Times reported the Vatican and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, were warned about Murphy, but the priest was not defrocked.

Lombardi has been seeking to turn down the volume of attacks on the media, most of which have been coming from the Vatican newspaper and from individual Church leaders.

But in his long commentary Lombardi said: “Those who love the truth and objective evaluation of problems will know how to seek and find information needed for a more overall understanding of the problem of paedeophilia...”

He said the problem “does not belong only to the Church” and that news organisations, including those in the United States, would do well to provide more coverage of statistics on paedophilia in general.

Church leaders have rallied around the pope to defend him and while some victims groups have suggested he should resign, the Vatican has ruled out the possibility, saying the Church cannot be compared to a multinational organisation where the CEO has to pay for the faults of subordinates.

Lombardi praised the pope as a “coherent guide on the path to rigour and truth” who deserved all the respect and support he was receiving from Church leaders around the world.

Date created : 2010-04-09


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