Bishop asks victims to forgive

2010-03-18 21:11

Rome - The bishop of the northern Italian city of Bolzano on Thursday asked for forgiveness after victims of past child abuse in his diocese came forward in the past few days.

"In the name of our church, I can only express my most sincere regret and above all ask the victims for forgiveness on behalf of the offenders," Karl Golser said in a statement published on the diocesan website.

"Sexual abuse and violence are a great crime, especially when they involve children and youth. These acts are particularly shameful because the church presents itself with high moral standards," he said.

Repeatedly abused by monks

A man, who as a teenager spent a summer in a monastery near Bolzano in the 1960s, told the local press last week he had been repeatedly abused by monks in exchange for small amounts of money.

Bolzano is the capital of Alto Adige, also known as Southern Tyrol, a German-speaking province on the border with Austria, where a series of revelations of sexual abuse perpetrated on minors within religious institutions has shaken the church since March 9.

Widespread child abuse by clergy, compounded by evidence of a cover-up by their superiors, rocked the Irish Catholic Church late last year.

Since then, new abuse scandals have swept other European Catholic churches, including those in The Netherlands, Switzerland and Pope Benedict XVI's native Germany.

The diocese of Bolzano put up contacts and an email address on its website for victims to come forward and speak up about past abuses.

The internet initiative was set up "in order not to give the impression that the church wants to keep quiet or hide something. Other kinds of aid will follow", Golser said.