Pope willing to meet abuse victims
Pope Benedict XVI is willing to meet with more victims of clerical sexual abuse, a Vatican spokesman has said.
In comments to Vatican Radio, the spokesman defended the Pope as a worthy pastor deserving of respect and support in the face of "unfounded" allegations of covering up sex abuse cases.
But the Rev Federico Lombardi also said that transparency and rigor are urgently needed to show the church is run in a wise and just manner.
Sex abuse allegations have swept across Europe in recent weeks, including in Benedict's native Germany. The Pope himself has come under fire for the handling of cases that date to his tenure as archbishop of Munich and as a Vatican cardinal in charge of the office dealing with abuse cases.
Mr Lombardi said that, in the context of the church's attentiveness for the victims, "the Pope has written that he is available for new meetings with them".
Benedict has already met with abuse victims during trips to the US and Australia, and with Canadians at the Vatican.
Mr Lombardi said many victims are looking not for financial compensation but for moral help.
He said proper selection and training of prospective priests will be crucial in preventing further abuse, and he insisted the church keeps carrying out canon trials "with decisiveness and truthfulness" and co-operate with civil authorities.
"Only that way can we actually restore an atmosphere of justice and full trust in the ecclesiastical institution," Mr Lombardi said.
The Vatican has denounced accusations that the church, including Pope Benedict, engaged in a cover-up, and has blamed the media for what it calls a smear campaign against the pontiff and his advisers.