Benedict XVI Meets With Group of Abuse Victims

Says Church Is Working to Investigate, Bring Justice

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VALLETTA, Malta, APRIL 18, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI met today with a small group of persons who were sexually abused by the clergy, reports the Vatican press office.



A statement released after the meeting confirmed that the meeting took place at the Apostolic Nunciature in Malta, and that the Pope was "deeply moved by their stories and expressed his shame and sorrow over what victims and their families have suffered."

"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," the communiqué stated.

The Vatican reported that "in the spirit of his recent Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, [the Pontiff] prayed that all the victims of abuse would experience healing and reconciliation, enabling them to move forward with renewed hope."

On Tuesday, Archbishop Paul Cremona of Malta met with a group of men sexually abused by religious in the 1980s.

Archbishop Cremona praised the victims for going public with their cases, affirming that justice needs to be done, the Times of Malta reported. He also decried certain sectors of the international media aiming to "form" the people against the Church, rather than "informing" them of the facts.

Response Team

The Archdiocese of Malta noted on its Web site that since 1999, there has been a Response Team in Malta to deal with allegations of sexual abuse within the Church. Some 45 cases have been brought to light that took place as far back as the 1970s.

Of these cases, 13 are still under investigation, 19 were found to have no basis for such allegations, and some 13 priests were found guilty of abuse.

Of the 13 priests found guilty by the Response Team, four of the cases were sent to the Holy See and the priests were found guilty. "Sentences varied from being defrocked to restrictions  placed upon his pastoral activity, in such a way that the priest involved would not be permitted to work with minors and be subject to supervision," the archdiocese reported.

Three others were also sent to the Vatican and the priests are currently waiting to testify before the Tribunal of the Holy See, and four other cases have only just been concluded and have not yet been sent to the Vatican.

The remaining two priests found guilty have since died.

"The Church treats these cases extremely seriously," the archdiocese asserted. "In spite of the fact that both Civil Law and Canon Law have a period of prescription over criminal cases, the Church Tribunal waivers this prescription in cases of abuse on minors and the cases continue to be processed no matter how old they are.  

"In every case, the persons involved, on presenting their allegations are immediately informed that, in spite of the fact that they made the allegation before the Church authorities, they still retain the right to report their case to the civil authorities."

"For the Church, every case is one too many," the statement concluded. "In this respect, we insistently repeat what the episcopal conference stated in its statement dated April 8, 2010, 'Christians are obliged to cooperate with the Church, rather than disguising facts or remaining silent, in order that this wound may be healed once and for all.'"