Pope Meets With Sex-Abuse Victims in Malta
By RACHEL DONADIO
VALLETTA, Malta — In his first such encounter since a sex abuse scandal broke in the Catholic Church last month, Pope Benedict XVI met on Sunday with a small group of victims of sexual abuse by priests and expressed his “shame and sorrow” at their plight.
The pope “was deeply moved by their stories and expressed his shame and sorrow over what victims and their families have suffered,” theVatican said in a statement after Benedict met with eight Maltese men who say they were molested by priests as children in a Maltaorphanage.
“He prayed with them and assured them that the church is doing, and will continue to do, all in its power to investigate allegations, to bring to justice those responsible for abuse and to implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people in the future,” the statement continued.
Among the men to meet with Benedict on Sunday was Lawrence Grech, 37, one of 10 men who in 2003 filed a criminal suit against priests they say molested them when they were growing up in an orphanage in Malta.
“Today I feel much better because I just met the pope,” Mr. Grech said after the meeting. “It’s fantastic. I can’t explain.”
Mr. Grech and others have complained that the Malta diocese has been investigating the case for seven years and has not yet determined how to proceed against the priests.
Benedict met the victims for 20 minutes in the chapel of the Apostolic Nunciature here in this harborside city, far from the eyes of the media. Two local bishops and several members of the papal entourage were also present. The climate that was “very intense but very serene,” the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said in a news conference afterwards.
It was Benedict’s third such meeting. He also met with abuse victims in visits to the United States and Australia in 2008.
In the news conference, Father Lombardi did not elaborate on the measures mentioned in the statement and said the meeting was a “symbolic” event more than a “legal” one. Father Lombardi said he did not think the visit would set a precedent for Benedict to meet with victims in every country he travels.
The Vatican statement said that “in the spirit” of Benedict’s March 20 letter to Irish Catholics, who are reeling from reports documenting decades of widespread abuse and a government cover-up, the pope “prayed that all the victims of abuse would experience healing and reconciliation, enabling them to move forward with renewed hopes.”
Benedict traveled on Saturday evening to this Catholic island midway between Sicily and North Africa to mark the 1,950th anniversary of the shipwreck of Saint Paul on Malta and to underscore the Christian roots of Europe and the challenge of illegal immigration.
In spite of the cloud of volcanic ash spreading south from Iceland, the pope was able to fly out of Rome on Saturday evening and was expected to return again on Sunday evening.
Later on Sunday he was expected to meet with a group of young people on a boat in the harbor. A loudspeaker announcement at the news center here reminded journalists to sign an insurance waiver before embarking on the boat.
Throughout the visit, Benedict recalled the plight of Saint Paul, who is said to have taken shelter on Malta after his ship encountered storms en route to Rome.
Speaking before the pope at an open-air Mass on Sunday morning, the archbishop of Malta, Paul Cremona, on Sunday, said that the church [has] to be “humble enough to recognize the failures and sins of its members.”
N.Y. Times Source Link. [Thanks to our fellow reader from Rhode Island. Emphasis and missing word added by blogger.]