- Title: MALTA: Pope Benedict meets victims of priestly abuse in Malta
- Date: 19th April 2010
- Summary: RABBAT, MALTA (APRIL 18, 2010) (REUTERS) CARS LEAVING ARCHBISHOP HOUSE WHERE MEETING TOOK PLACE
- Embargoed: 4th May 2010 13:00
- Location: Malta
- Country: Malta
- Topics: Crime / Law Enforcement,Royalty
- Reuters ID: LVADGAWOQ6RSOXEASK29EBLVPIQC
- Story Text: Sexual abuse victims in Malta who met with the Pope say it was a very emotional moment.
Pope Benedict, in his first gesture since a new wave of sexual abuse scandals swept over Roman Catholicism, promised on Sunday (April 18) the Church will do "all in its power" to bring the guilty to justice and protect the young.
After the meeting Lawrence Grech, one of ten men suing three priests for alleged child abuse said it had been very emotional and the Pope had praised his courage.
"We have had an hour meeting with the Pope. We prayed together. Also we had we had to private talk. You know, like six minutes, five minutes," he said and then added, " He told me I'm proud of you."
Talking to journalists an emotional Grech broke down saying he had regained the faith he had lost when the abuse began at the age of 11 from two priests and a Brother at St. Joseph Catholic orphanage in the Maltese town of Santa Venera.
"It was emotional. Everybody cried. You know. The Archbishop of Malta. The Archbishop. Everybody. It was like, everybody knows what is the reality. You know," he said.
"Justice now. The first chapter I meet the Pope and I hope and this is going to experience is going to change my life.
To go to my daughter and say to my daughter I believe you know," Grech added.
Grech 37, who is now married with two children, started a legal battle against the Church in 2003 for which he said he will continue to raise awareness.
Vatican spokesperson Father Federico Lombardi issued a statement after the pope met privately with eight Maltese victims of sexual abuse in the Vatican's embassy on the last and second day of his trip to Malta.
"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," a Vatican statement said.
The statement was one of the clearest yet from the Vatican that it wanted local bishops to cooperate with civil authorities in prosecuting priests who abused children.
"He was deeply moved by their stories and expressed his shame and sorrow over what victims and their families have suffered," it added, adding that the pope "prayed that all the victims of abuse would experience healing and reconciliation, enabling them to move forward with renewed hope".
A spokesman said the pope met with them as a group and then spoke to each individually before they prayed together.
The pope's trip to Malta has been overshadowed by the global church sex-abuse crisis. Earlier, at an open-air Mass, he heard the island's leading bishop say the Catholic Church had to be humble enough to recognise its failures.
So far on this trip, his first of five international visits planned for this year, Benedict has made no direct reference in public to the worldwide crisis.
Tourist, Lilian, said she was sceptical about the claims and the Pontiff should not have met with the victims.
"I don't believe that the Pope should accept it. I think he is just condoning it. So he shouldn't accept it," she said whilst walking through Malta's Valleta old town.
Other residents said they were happy the Pope had taken the time to see the victims.
"If he did it was a very good approach. Because that shows that there is communication in this world between the Pope, between the Catholics and people who have suffered, some victims whatsoever in our church," said Caroline, a local Maltese woman.
"Well I think it was good that the Pope has actually faced these victims but I think it was the right thing to do," said another Valleta resident Shailo.
Hundreds of cases of sexual and physical abuse of youths in recent decades by priests have come to light in Europe and the United States as disclosures encourage long-silent victims to finally go public with their complaints.
The pope himself has been accused of turning a blind eye in 1980, when he was archbishop of Munich in his native Germany, to the case of a priest who was sent there for therapy after sexually abusing children and soon transferred to parish work.
The Vatican has said a subordinate was responsible for that decision.
As Benedict was visiting Malta, the Vatican was swept up with another potentially explosive case.
Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, a former Vatican official who congratulated a French bishop for hiding a sexually abusive priest in 2001, told a conference in Spain he acted with the approval of the late Pope John Paul.
Last week the Vatican spokesman indirectly confirmed that a 2001 letter Castrillon Hoyos sent to the bishop posted on a French website was authentic and was proof the Vatican was right to tighten up its procedures on sex abuse cases that year.
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