USA - RELIGION

Pope meets with clergy abuse victims

2 min

On the second day of his US visit, Pope Benedict XVI met with a small group of people who had been sexually abused by Catholic priests. Earlier in the day, the pontiff celebrated Mass before tens of thousands of followers. (Report: N. Rushworth)

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Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday met with a small group of people who had been sexually abused by priests, the Vatican said in a statement.

"Today at 4:15 pm (2015 GMT), the Holy Father met in the chapel at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington DC with a small group of persons who were sexually abused by members of the clergy," the statement said.

The group prayed together and the pontiff then listened to the stories of the victims, and "offered them words of encouragement and hope."

"His Holiness assured them of his prayers for their intentions, for their families and for all victims of sexual abuse," the statement added.

The US Catholic Church was plunged into its worst crisis ever in 2002 when the archbishop of Boston admitted to have protected a priest who had sexually abused young members of his church -- opening a floodgate of thousands of similar abuse cases around the country dating back decades.

Benedict has apologized several times already during his first papal visit to the United States and on Thursday spoke of the pain of such abuse.

"No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse," he told some 48,000 people who gathered for a Mass in the new Washington Nationals ballpark celebrated by the pontiff.

The abuse has dominated a large part of the pope's visit to the United States, and on the flight from Rome to Washington on Tuesday, Benedict said the sex scandal had made him feel "deeply ashamed."

"Pedophilia is completely incompatible with the practice of ministry. It is better to have good priests rather than have many," he was quoted as saying by Italy's ANSA news agency.

Benedict was accompanied during his private meeting with the abuse victims on Thursday by the new Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the Vatican said.

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