Pope 'shaken' by talks with abuse victims

2011-09-24 13:02

Erfurt - Pope Benedict XVI met victims of sexual abuse by clergy on the second day of his visit to his German homeland on Friday, an encounter that left him "deeply shaken", Vatican officials said.

He also held joint prayers with members of the Protestant faith in Germany, in a bid to build bridges between the two churches.

During a 30-minute meeting with abuse victims in Erfurt, the pope said he was "moved and deeply shaken by the sufferings of the victims", the Vatican said. Church officials described the meeting as "very, very emotional".

"The Holy Father expressed his deep compassion and regret over all that was done to them and their families," said a Vatican statement.

Pope ‘close to victims’

The meeting had been keenly awaited during the 84-year-old pontiff's visit to his homeland, which was rocked by revelations of widespread abuse over the last several decades.

"He assured the people present that those in positions of responsibility in the church are seriously concerned to deal with all crimes of abuse and are committed to the promotion of effective measures for the protection of children and young people," the statement said.

"Pope Benedict XVI is close to the victims and he expresses the hope that the merciful God, Creator and Redeemer of all mankind, may heal the wounds of the victims and grant them inner peace."

Hans Langendoerfer, the co-ordinator of the visit, told AFP the pope met five victims of abuse, three men and two women.

It was very clear that the meeting had greatly touched the pope, added Langendoerfer.

The leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics had told reporters on Thursday on his flight to Germany that he sympathised with the thousands who had turned their backs on the church over the paedophile scandals.

"I can understand that in the face of such reports, people, especially those close to victims, would say 'this isn't my church anymore'," the pope said.

Abuse scandal rocks church

About 9 000 papal opponents later demonstrated in Berlin while the pontiff addressed parliament in a rally that focused in large part on the molestation scandals.

The German Catholic Church was thrown into turmoil last year as hundreds came forward saying they were abused as minors between the 1950s and the 1980s amid allegations that the crimes were swept under the carpet.

Over the past year large-scale paedophilia scandals have rocked the Catholic Church in a number of countries, including Ireland, Austria, Belgium and the US.

During a visit to Britain this time last year, the pope also met five victims and expressed his "deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes".

The pontiff has previously met with victims on visits to Malta, the US and Australia. In Malta the victims said the pope wept as he met them.

Rifts between churches

Earlier on Friday, on the second leg of the tour, the pope held prayers with Protestant leaders in a show of greater Christian unity.

Benedict said the different wings of the church should "keep in view just how much we have in common, not losing sight of it amid the pressure towards secularisation - everything that makes us Christian in the first place and continues to be our gift and our task".

The service was also attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel, a Lutheran.

But it disappointed some observers, who said the pope had failed to match his conciliatory message with concrete action to heal the 500-year-old rift between the churches.

The head of the Lutheran Church, Nikolaus Schneider, said he had conveyed the message to the pontiff that his flock was not satisfied with current relations with the Vatican.

"Our hearts are burning for more and that could be sensed today," he said.

Late Friday, the pope celebrated a sunset mass before 90 000 believers in a tiny village in former communist East Germany, which he praised for keeping the faith alive throughout the turmoil of the 20th century in Germany.

Christians in Germany are evenly divided between Catholics and Lutherans, with a growing trend toward secularisation sparking crises in both churches.

On Saturday, the third day of a tour of his native Germany, Benedict is due to greet the faithful in the main cathedral square in the eastern city of Erfurt.

Later the day, he will hold a prayer vigil in staunchly Catholic Freiburg in the southwest.

  • People Hater - 2011-09-24 13:50

    Deeply shaken one of them may remember and identify him.

      Idomeneo - 2011-09-24 16:19

      Funny how he's shaken by these revelations when he was one of those responsible for hushing it all up at the time.

      Blue - 2011-09-25 10:33

      This has been going on for not years...centuries. The 'dope' knew about it long ago but tried everything in his silly human power to 'sweep it under the carpet'. Now that he sees that even his own people are turning aginst him and that record numbers of cathelics have turned their backs on their that his 'holynism' is getting bleaker by the day...NOW HE 'SITS' AND DOES SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!!! I say...take off your silly golden ring that learned people still have to bend down to kiss...utulize the trillions you have at your disposal AND DO SOMETHING FOR YOUR PEOPLE!!! I just can't understand that the most powerful person in always this pathetic, ailing, pampered human who can't for the life of me talk properly and just shows his 'presence' when problems within the church are at total breaking point!!

  • Bontage - 2011-09-24 14:35

    "Deeply shaken", but not so deeply shaken that he will allow an external task force investigate and prosecute claims of abuse. After all, isn't that God's job?

  • Anton - 2011-09-24 15:34

    This is the same man (pope) , who flew high above Africa the year before last, on his way to Angola, and told reporters on his flight, that it is not ok, to wear condoms while having sex. Ten kilometers below him , millions of Africans were fighting for their lives with HIV Aids!!!! Let's hope this pope shakes a whole lot more!!!

  • Max - 2011-09-24 15:50

    Shake him some more, maybe you will find all the toys he's been using to lure in boys!

  • Webster - 2011-09-24 16:24

    Ja, so shaken he does nothing about it.

  • casabanderas - 2011-09-24 16:46

    What??? Only 30 minutes??? This in reply to many years of abuse??? Where does this man come from - Planet Earth??? We need much more time spent on investigation and reporting to the world!!!

      Dmitri - 2011-09-24 17:09

      The Holy Father expressed his deep compassion There is nothing holy about this man........

  • mabsie - 2011-09-24 21:23

    As an ex Catholic I want to now know: 1. Whats he going to do to the perpetrators? 2. Whats he going to do to prevent and weed out the rot in his church? Visible emotion is not enough.

  • jim robertson - 2011-09-24 23:52

    If you only knew about the church's creation of 2 so called survivors groups SNAP and Survivors Voice you would weep.They mis-direct and pretend to care for victims, while they really are there to control victims and do damage control. See Victims of Silence @bulletinboards.

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