Benedict XVI was “moved and deeply shaken” by the suffering of a group of victims of sex abuse whom he met on Friday evening, 23 September, in Erfurt. These victims had been abused by priests or clerical employees: two women and three men who come from different parts of Germany. On returning from the Marian celebration in Etzelsbach the Pope spoke with them for about half an hour at the local seminary.
The five victims were accompanied by Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier, who heads the section of the German Bishops’ Conference that deals with sex abuse cases, together with some of those working for their prevention and the protection of the young, whom the Pope greeted before leaving Erfurt seminary.
Fr Federico Lombardi, sj, Director of the Holy See Press Office, reported the meeting had taken place in a “very communicative and serene” atmosphere. The note continues by emphasizing that the “Holy Father expressed his deep compassion and regret over all that was done to them and their families”. The Pontiff also “assured the people present that those in positions of responsibility in the Church are seriously concerned to deal with all crimes of abuse and are committed to the promotion of effective measures for the protection of children and young people”.
The communiqué concluded by expressing Benedict XVI ’s assurance that “he is close to the victims and he expresses the hope that the merciful God, Creator and Redeemer of all mankind, may heal the wounds of the victims and grant them inner peace”.
The Friday evening meeting in Germany is the fifth in the series of similar meetings which Pope Ratzinger has had during previous international journeys: usa (April 2008), Australia (July 2008), Malta (April 2010) and in the United Kingdom (September 2010). As usual the meeting took place far from the limelight, in the discreet manner Pope Ratzinger demands in these circumstances. Moreover the Pontiff’s attention to abuse scandals is so clear that even during his flight to Berlin, at the beginning of this Journey, he anticipated the most important topics with the journalists travelling with him, by confronting the thorny question of those who leave the Church because they are scandalized by cases of abuse.
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