Pope condemns 'evil betrayal' by sex-abuse priests

Benedict XVI says scandal shames church and calls for justice for victims
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The Independent Online

Pope Benedict XVI yesterday issued his strongest condemnation to date of child sex abuse by Roman Catholic clerics in Australia, describing their acts as evil and a grave betrayal of trust that has disgraced the church, and saying he was "deeply sorry".

The Pope said: "These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation. They have caused great pain... I would like to pause to acknowledge the shame which we have all felt as a result of the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy... in this country.

"I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured and I assure them as their pastor that I, too, share in their suffering. Those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice."

The pontiff has expressed regret before about the abuse scandal, notably during a visit to the US in April when he met a small number of victims. But yesterday's apology was stronger. A Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said the Pope changed the original text, adding the words that he was deeply sorry because he wanted to "personally underline" that he felt close to the victims.

Anthony Foster, the father of two Australian girls who were allegedly raped by a Catholic priest, has been seeking a meeting with Benedict. "What we haven't had is an unequivocal, unlimited practical response that provides for all the victims for their lifetime," Mr Foster said, adding that the response "needs to include both financial help and psychological help".

Support groups say victims of church abuse in Australia number in the thousands. The group Broken Rites has documented more than 100 cases in which clerics of all denominations have been sentenced for abuse crimes.