18-April-2008 -- ZENIT.org News Agency |

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Benedict XVI Meets With Sexual Abuse Victims

WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 17, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI prayed with and listened to a small group of persons who were sexually abused by members of the clergy.

Today's meeting, which was not listed on the official itinerary of the Pope's visit, took place at the Apostolic Nunciature in the nation's capital.

A communiqué from the Vatican reported that the archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, accompanied the group. This archdiocese was one of the most affected by the sexual abuse crisis.

The statement said, "They prayed with the Holy Father, who afterwards listened to their personal accounts and offered them words of encouragement and hope.

"His Holiness assured them of his prayers for their intentions, for their families and for all victims of sexual abuse."

In the Pontiff's morning homily at Washington Nationals stadium, he recognized "the pain which the Church in America has experienced as a result of the sexual abuse of minors."

He continued: "No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse. It is important that those who have suffered be given loving pastoral attention. Nor can I adequately describe the damage that has occurred within the community of the Church.

"Great efforts have already been made to deal honestly and fairly with this tragic situation, and to ensure that children -- whom our Lord loves so deeply, and who are our greatest treasure -- can grow up in a safe environment."

Great suffering

This was the third time Benedict XVI talked about the sexual abuse crisis since he left for the United States.

He commented on the situation in a press conference Tuesday with reporters on the plane en route to Washington, D.C., and during his address to the bishops Wednesday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

On Tuesday the Pope called the crisis "a great suffering for the Church in the United States and for the Church in general and for me personally that this could happen."

"We are deeply ashamed and will do all possible that this cannot happen in the future," he added.

In the Pontiff's address to the U.S. bishops he said the crisis was a cause of "deep shame," and added that the situation needs to be put into the wider context of sexual values.

"Children deserve to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships," the Holy Father said. "They should be spared the degrading manifestations and the crude manipulation of sexuality so prevalent today. They have a right to be educated in authentic moral values rooted in the dignity of the human person."

Benedict XVI asked: "What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today?

"We need to reassess urgently the values underpinning society, so that a sound moral formation can be offered to young people and adults alike."

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