Pope says sorry to Australian victims of clerical sexual abuse

(Editor’s update: Full story here)

SYDNEY, Australia — During his homily at a Saturday Mass specifically for Australian bishops, priests, religious, seminarians and novices, Pope Benedict XVI apologized for instances of clerical sexual abuse.

Expanding on the apology in his prepared text, the pope said, “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.”

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters the pope added the line in order to “personally underline” his feelings about the scandal.

Dedicating a new main altar in Sydney’s St. Mary’s Cathedral, the pope said he hoped the Mass would mark a moment of renewal for the entire church in Australia.

“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,” the pope said, before spontaneously adding the line above.

“These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation. They have caused great pain and have damaged the church’s witness,” he said.

“I ask all of you to support and assist your bishops, and to work together with them in combating this evil. Victims should receive compassion and care, and those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice,” the pope said.

“It is an urgent priority to promote a safer and more wholesome environment, especially for young people. In these days marked by the celebration of World Youth Day, we are reminded of how precious a treasure has been entrusted to us in our young people,” he said.

“As the church in Australia continues, in the spirit of the Gospel, to address effectively this serious pastoral challenge, I join you in praying that this time of purification will bring about healing, reconciliation and ever greater fidelity to the moral demands of the Gospel,” Pope Benedict said.

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