Pope apologizes to victims of sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy in Australia


Sydney, Jul 18, 2008 / 11:59 pm (CNA).- At the consecration of the altar at St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney this morning, Pope Benedict XVI issued an anticipated formal apology to people who experienced sexual abuse by clergy of the Australian Catholic Church.

During his message to 3,400 of Australia's bishops, seminarians and novices the Pope paused to address the issue that attracted significant media interest in light of World Youth Day held in Sydney.

"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."

"These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation."

"They have caused great pain, they have damaged the church's witness."
The Holy Father then urged the religious members of the Church who were present, to work together in "combating this evil."

"Victims should receive compassion and care, and those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice."

"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, and how great a part of the Church's mission in this country has been dedicated to their education and care."

The Pope's statements follow his comments about sex abuse and the Church made to the media during the Papal flight to Sydney, where he said, "We have to consider what was insufficient in our behaviour and how we can prevent, heal, reconcile."

"He was really sorry, and said that he understood it was painful for others," said Lorena, part of the Marian Community of Reconciliation in Sydney, who was close to the Pope, sitting in the fifth row.

""I was personally touched by the message. Even if it was not the Pope who committed the abuse, I was touched by the humility that the Pope has shown to us," said John Paul Esclaran, a 24 year old Filipino seminarian, part of the Diocese of Parramatta and studying at the Holy Spirit Seminary.

This apology is a similar to statements made by the Pope in his recent visit to the United States.

Pope's message to young seminarians and religious of the Australian Catholic Church

"Dear friends: with great generosity you have set out on a particular path of consecration, grounded in your Baptism and undertaken in response to the Lord's personal call."

"You have committed yourselves, in different ways, to accepting Christ's invitation to follow him, to leave all behind, and to and to devote your lives to the pursuit of holiness and the service of his people."

"In this way, dear young seminarians and religious, you yourselves will become living altars, where Christ's sacrificial love is made present as an inspiration and a source of spiritual nourishment to everyone you meet."

"By embracing the Lord's call to follow him in chastity, poverty and obedience, you have begun a journey of radical discipleship which will make you "signs of contradiction" (cf. Lk 2:34) to many of your contemporaries."

"Model your lives daily on the Lord's own loving self-oblation in obedience to the will of the Father. You will then discover the freedom and joy which can draw others to the Love which lies beyond all other loves as their source and their ultimate fulfilment."

"Listening to the sharing of the nun and what she saying about her life as a religious person, I was inspired about my own discernment, and said to myself, this is the life I'm going to take," said John Paul.

"It added to my discernment, it certainly helped."