Plain-speaking Pope offers clearest pledge yet on abuse
POPE Benedict, who has come under fire from victims' groups for using vague language about the Roman Catholic sexual abuse crisis, yesterday publicly promised church "action" to counter the scandal.
In the past month, since the sexual-abuse crisis has exploded internationally, with allegations mushrooming in the US, Austria and his native Germany, the Pope has used vague terms such as how the church had been "wounded by our sins" or needed "penance".
But speaking at his general audience at the Vatican yesterday, he used the word "abuse" in public for the first time in more than a month, a period in which the scandal has developed into the greatest crisis of his five-year pontificate.
Summarising his weekend trip to Malta at his weekly general audience in St Peter's Square, Pope Benedict said: "I wanted to meet some people who were victims of abuse by members of the clergy.
"I shared with them their suffering and with emotion I prayed with them, promising them action on the part of the church."
Victims' groups had demanded the Pope say something directly in public, instead of using indirect references and generalities. A statement on Sunday in Malta, after his meeting with eight abuse victims, said the Pope had promised them the church would do "all in its power to investigate allegations, to bring to justice those responsible for abuse and to implement effective measures to safeguard young people".
That was one of the clearest statements yet from the Vatican that it wanted local bishops to co-operate with civil authorities in prosecuting priests who abused children.
However, as Benedict marked the fifth anniversary of his pontificate on Monday, the Vatican was swept up in another potentially explosive case.
Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, a former Vatican official who congratulated a French bishop for hiding a sexually abusive priest in 2001, told a conference at the weekend that he had acted with the approval of the late Pope John Paul.
Last week, the Vatican spokesman indirectly confirmed that a 2001 letter Castrillon Hoyos sent to the bishop posted on a French website was authentic and was proof the Vatican was right to tighten up its procedures on sex abuse cases that year.
English bishops beg forgiveness: page 41