Pope says he is 'deeply sorry' to Australian sexual abuse victims


JF-Expert Member
Feb 11, 2007
Pope says he is 'deeply sorry' to Australian sexual abuse victims

Barbara McMahon in Sydney
The Observer, Sunday July 20, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI yesterday apologised to victims of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy in Australia, saying that he was 'deeply sorry' for their suffering.

Speaking in Sydney, where he is participating in World Youth Day celebrations, the pontiff called the abuses 'a grave betrayal of trust' that deserved condemnation and called for the victims to receive 'care and compassion'.

As the Pope, 81, made his apology, tens of thousands of young Catholics made a colourful spectacle as they trekked across the Harbour Bridge, which was closed for most of the day as a special concession to World Youth Day celebrations.

Although the Pope's address was welcomed by Australian victims and their support groups many people felt the apology did not go far enough. Victims, who had hoped to have a face-to-face meeting with the Pope, said they had not even been invited into the church to hear it. They also complained that the Pope had not addressed the issue of compensation. In some part of Australia, victims of sexual abuse by clergy are limited to $50,000 (£24,300) payouts.

Anthony and Christine Foster's two daughters were sexually assaulted by a priest in Melbourne in the 1980s. One of their daughters committed suicide at 26 last year. The couple said the pontiff's response was disappointing. 'We've had apologies from Cardinal Pell and other bishops in Australia before,' said Mr Foster. 'What we haven't had is an unequivocal, unlimited practical response that includes financial and psychological help for the victims for the rest of their lives.

Broken Rites, a support group, said the apology was inadequate. 'Sorry may be a start but we want to see a lot more,' said spokeswoman Chris MacIssac. 'We want the victims to be treated fairly, we don't want them to feel that they have been shut out and we don't want them to be re-abused by the church authorities.

The apology received support from other quarters. New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma said he hoped it would be a turning point for victims. 'Hopefully it will be a sign of righting the wrongs of the past and of a better future and better treatment by the church of the victims and their families,' he said.

In his address, the Pope said: 'Here 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 and religious in this country. Indeed, I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured and I assure them that, as their pastor, I too share in their suffering. These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation.'

More than 100 members of the Catholic clergy have been sentenced in Australian courts on sex charges.
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