Sunday, May 11, 2008

Pope will apologise to Australian sex abuse victims

THE Pope is set to make an historic apology to the tens of thousands of Australians sexually and physically abused by predatory Catholic priests.

Church sources have told The Daily Telegraph there is mounting expectation that Pope Benedict XVI will use his Australian trip in July to express his shame and regret over the church's long-running abuse scandal - and may also meet victims.
The likelihood of an apology increased yesterday when one of the Catholic Church's most senior figures, the Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle Michael Malone, gave his backing for a papal apology.
Bishop Malone said the Pope had set a precedent by apologising to American abuse victims on a recent tour of the US and "I would certainly be supportive" of an Australian apology.
It is believed The Vatican will consider the wording of any papal apology in the weeks leading up to Pope Benedict's arrival in Sydney on July 13 for the World Youth Day festivities.
One Catholic source said: "It's hard to believe that after making the sort of apology he did in America a few weeks ago that he would leave Australia without doing the same thing."
Pope Benedict told American abuse victims last month that it was "difficult for me to understand this was possible that priests betrayed in this way their mission to give healing.
"We are deeply ashamed and we will do all that is possible that this cannot happen in future."
Groups representing Australian victims of church abuse said a papal apology was long overdue.
"The scale of abuse in Australia has been far greater than in the US," Dr Wayne Chamley, a spokesman for Broken Rites, said.
"There are tens of thousands of victims from Catholic-run institutions who were denied education, they were used as slaves, they were sexually and physically abused."
A spokesman for the organisers of World Youth Day, which is expected to draw more than half a million Catholic pilgrims to Sydney in July, declined to speculate whether the Pope would issue a formal apology while in Australia.
Hundreds of Catholic clergy have been accused of abusing children in their care dating back to the 1950s, with the church rocked by repeated scandals and accusations of cover-ups by senior officials.
In the past decade the church has settled more than 1000 claims of abuse as part of its Towards Healing process.


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