Pope meets abuse victims

 

Pope Benedict XVI met with German victims of sexual abuse by priests today and expressed "deep compassion and regret" at the suffering of those abused by members of the clergy.

The pope met with five of victims on the second day of his four-day state visit to his native Germany, which has seen the numbers of Roman Catholics leaving the congregations jump, after hundreds of people came forward in 2010 with stories of having been physically or sexually abused by members of the clergy.

A statement from the Vatican, said the pope was "moved and deeply shaken" and is close to the victims. He expresses the hope that God "may heal the wounds of the victims and grant them inner peace," the Vatican said.

The pope met with the victims for half an hour late, as part of a four-day tour that church leaders here say they hoped would help revive faith in the Roman Catholic church in Germany, which was shaken by last year's revelations of the abuse scandal.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the victims were two women and three men from all over Germany. He said the meeting was held in "very calm" circumstances and that a member of the hotline service set up by Germany's church to field abuse claims was also present.

The pope assured the group that church officials are "seriously concerned" about dealing with crimes of abuse and are committed to enact effective measures to protect children, the Vatican said.

The pope has had similar meetings on trips to the US, Australia, Malta and Britain, all hit by the worldwide sex abuse scandal that has plagued the Roman Catholic church over the past decades.