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.

Friday’s WYD summary

Here are today’s highlights over at the CNS World Youth Day blog and on the CNS homepage for WYD stories:

Simon of Cyrene is depicted as an Aboriginal man manacled to other Aborigines to reflect the way that colonial powers captured and chained indigenous people on the edges of the Australian frontier in the 19th century. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Simon of Cyrene is depicted as an Aboriginal man manacled to other Aborigines. (CNS/Paul Haring)

— I’ve probably learned more this week about the history of Aborigines in Australia than in my entire life thanks to the emphasis being given to it by the organizers of World Youth Day. Today was no exception with the Stations of the Cross staged in Sydney.

If you’re not familiar with World Youth Day tradition, Friday Stations of the Cross always have been an important part of the program, and as today’s story by Dan McAloon shows, this years stations’ enactment was filled with symbolism. He writes for instance that “a golden winter’s afternoon light turned to twilight and finally full darkness on the harbor as Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross.”

Our own Paul Haring captured some of the symbolism in pictures (right), covering the seventh station where Simon of Cyrene is ordered to take up Jesus’ cross.



— Today’s other highlight was the papal lunch with 12 lucky young adults from around the world, including Armando Cervantes, 27, director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Orange, Calif. Among Cervantes’ gifts was a Mickey Mouse hat since Disneyland is in his diocese. Fortunately for the Vatican, and unfortunately for photo editors across the globe, the pope didn’t put it on.

— Over at our WYD blog, our writers are still talking about the papal arrival yesterday at Sydney Harbor. We mentioned earlier Kris Dmytrenko’s scoop, but there’s also a good essay there by Chris Valka, CSB, reminding us that the infectious joy that pervades Sydney this week comes from Jesus himself.

— Some of us are taking Saturday off, though you should follow the WYD blog all weekend (even though some of our bloggers are concerned that it will be difficult to post from the all-night vigil out at Royal Randwick Racecourse). But we’ll be back here on Sunday to sum up World Youth Day 2008.

‘Humanae Vitae’ offers much for reflection in today’s world

July 25 marks the 40th anniversary of “Humanae Vitae” (“Of Human Life”), Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on the regulation of birth. The document has been the subject of much discussion and reflection in Catholic newspapers across the country, including my CNS article here.

By offering reflections and explaining the meaning of the encyclical in contemporary life, the articles will likely get people in the pews to think about their own sexuality and to see God’s love in the creation of new life.

The Tablet in the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y., is taking the next two weeks to reflect on the document. Editor Ed Wilkinson explains his newspaper’s reasoning for looking at the issue.

For openers, a column by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio. Philip Franco explored Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body; Marilyn Santos the encyclical’s relevance to young people; Joseph Marino the connection to Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical “Deus Caritas Est” (“God is Love”); and Msgr. Walter Murphy discussed living chaste lives. All give readers plenty to think about.

In Phoenix, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted offers his views on the encyclical in his regular column in The Catholic Sun this week. He contrasts the message of Pope Paul VI with that of St. Paul, as the church observes the Pauline Year.

Other newspapers undoubtedly are addressing the document’s anniversary as well. And local dioceses and Catholic colleges and universities are hosting programs on the encyclical. Check your local newspapers for details.

Caught between food and fuel

As the price of gasoline and groceries continues to soar, social agencies are feeling the pinch more and more acutely. CNS reported on this back in May when gas was a mere $3.50 a gallon, unlike the current average national rate of $4.11 for a gallon of regular unleaded, according to a July 16 report from the motorist advocacy group AAA.

 The Leaven, archdiocesan newspaper of Kansas City, Kan., focuses on the high price of food and gas in its July 4 issue. The story points out that many families are now forced them to “make a terrible choice: food or fuel?” Local Catholic Charities agencies, it says, are seeing more people — especially those who have never been to food pantries before — come through their doors seeking help, as they struggle to make ends meet.

The surge comes at a bad time. In the summer, food pantries typically experience a decrease in donations and students are not in school to receive free lunches.

People need to step up to the plate and help, said a spokeswoman for Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, urging people to volunteer at local service agencies, donate to food pantries or conduct food drives.

Physically and spiritually fit

Who needs gym memberships to keep fit when you can exercise with fellow parishioners right at church? That’s what plenty of Hawaii Catholics are doing lately, according to a story in the June 27 issue of the Hawaii Catholic Herald.

These parishioners are getting together for tai chi classes, fitness lessons using elastic resistance bands, and — since it’s Hawaii — hula aerobics. One parishioner, who has been with a parish exercise group for two years, said the activity gives seniors a chance to “crack our bones and get physically fit.” But she also said the group is more than just a fitness club because participants “share stories and news about personal life. You come to develop friendships.”

Pope on Sudan: ‘The country I most want to visit’

(CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani, CPP)Kris Dmytrenko, an associate producer at Salt + Light Television, Canada’s Catholic network and one of our bloggers over on the CNS World Youth Day blog, has a scoop of sorts. Click here to read his post from earlier today.

Thursday’s WYD summary

Here are today’s highlights over at the CNS World Youth Day blog and on the CNS homepage for WYD stories:

A cruise ship carrying Pope Benedict XVI and World Youth Day pilgrims makes its way through Sydney Harbor July 17 in Sydney. (CNS/courtesy of World Youth Day 2008)

A cruise ship carrying Pope Benedict XVI and World Youth Day pilgrims makes its way through Sydney Harbor July 17. (CNS/courtesy of World Youth Day 2008)

— Today, of course, Pope Benedict finally arrived at World Youth Day after his three days of rest outside Sydney. We had two stories this morning, one on the formal welcoming at Sydney’s Government House, and the second on the far-more-boisterous boat ride through Sydney Harbor and landing at the old dockyard at Barangaroo.

— But our bloggers also had stories to tell about the arrival. One told of unexpectedly seeing the pope up close, a second wrote about greeting the pope and riding next to him on the boat, and a third wrote about his good fortune in his role at the WYD welcoming.

— And if you’ve been wondering about the role that the Australian Aborigines have been playing at WYD, Dan McAloon has a great story giving us many details about Aboriginal customs on display in Sydney.

— Meanwhile, we’ve updated the “Sydney Excitement” photo slideshow with new images from World Youth Day events.

Events for tomorrow for the pope (his day actually starts in just a few minutes because of the time difference) include the traditional WYD Stations of the Cross, preceeded by a lunch with several lucky youths.