Cardinal: Pope's Meeting With Abuse Victims Positive

Said They Were Grateful for Opportunity

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By Anthony Barich

SYDNEY, Australia, JULY 21, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal George Pell said the private pastoral visit Benedict XVI had with victims of sexual abuse by clergy was positive and particularly moving.

The Pope celebrated Mass and had a meeting with four Australian victims of sexual abuse by clergy on Monday morning local time at St. Mary’s Cathedral House in Sydney.

The Pontiff was in Australia to preside at the World Youth Day celebrations, which end Sunday. He left Monday evening for Rome.

Cardinal Pell, the archbishop of Sydney, said the visit with four victims -- two men and two women aged 30 and over, chosen by the Professional Standards Office of New South Wales -- had been organized over a number of weeks.

“We have a system to deal with these problems and [the Professional Standards office] do that, I believe, well and sensitively,” the cardinal said.

“I was moved by the encounter," he added. "I think it will have a positive effect with the people that were there. The Pope repeated generally what he said so beautifully in public.”

Benedict XVI expressed his deep sorrow for the suffering of sexual abuse victims during his homily at Mass on Saturday with Australian clergy.

Departing from his prepared homily the Pope said, "Indeed, I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured, and I assure them that as their pastor, I too share in their suffering."

When asked whether the victims offered any ideas on how the Church an better tackle clergy abuse, Cardinal Pell said: “The conversations were private; we’re always open to hear constructive, practical suggestions that will try to make this vexed and difficult situation better and we have to respect the decisions of the people who came along."

He said the victims had the opportunity to "say whatever they wanted to the Pope, and he replied."

The cardinal said some of the victims were from Sydney, but said it was “another matter” whether they still lived in there.

Cardinal Pell added, “The people there were very grateful that they were there.”