Tearful Pope says sorry to clerical abuse victims
THE Pope bowed to intense pressure yesterday and met a group of eight clerical sex abuse victims during his visit to Malta.
He expressed his "shame and sorrow" over what the men had suffered and insisted that the Catholic Church was doing "all in its power" to investigate similar allegations around the world.
The men, who claim they endured years of sexual abuse by Catholic priests at an orphanage on the island, said the Pope had tears in his eyes when he apologised to them for their ordeals.
The Pontiff (83) met the men in private at the residence of the papal nuncio, or Vatican ambassador, in Malta's historic capital, Valletta.
It represented the largest group of clerical sex abuse victims he has met, having encountered five American victims in Washington in April 2008 and five in Australia a few months later.
"He was deeply moved by their stories and expressed his shame and sorrow over what victims and their families have suffered," the Vatican said in a statement.
"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 Vatican offered no further details of what measures would be implemented. Victims' advocacy groups have demanded that the Vatican take concrete steps to protect children and remove abusive priests, saying the Pope's expressions to date of solidarity and shame were meaningless unless actual action is taken.
A total of 10 Maltese men have alleged that priests molested them every day in the dormitory they shared at St Joseph Home orphanage between 1982 and 1990. Court proceedings have started against three priests, but the victims complain that the process is moving "at a snail's pace". A fourth accused priest has fled to Italy.
Joseph Magro (38) said: "It was a very emotional meeting. We were crying, the bishops were crying and the Pope had tears in his eyes. It is still very difficult for me, but I'm now at peace with the church."
He said the men received a call yesterday morning to come to the embassy and that the Pope spent a few minutes with each one of them.
A second victim, who wanted to be identified only as 'Emanuel', said: "The Pope was only in Malta for 26 hours and we really appreciated that he gave us half-an-hour of his time. But we will still fight in the courts for justice. A lot of Maltese people think we are only doing this to get money. We don't want money, we want justice. We don't want other people in the future to be hurt like we were."
Lawrence Grech, who led efforts to arrange the encounter, said the Pope told each of the men: "I am very proud of you for having come forward to tell your story."