ERFURT, Germany – Pope Benedict XVI met with five victims of clerical sexual abuse in Germany, expressing his deep regret and the church’s commitment to preventing such crimes in the future.
The Vatican said the 84-year-old pope was “moved and deeply shaken by the suffering of the victims.” He met with the group, two women and three men, in the seminary in Erfurt Sept. 23, the second day of a four-day visit to his homeland.
The victims, from various parts of Germany, had suffered sexual abuse by priests and other church personnel, the Vatican said. They were accompanied by Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier, who has helped draw up new measures to deal with abusive priests.
“The Holy Father expressed his deep compassion and regret over all that was done to them and their families,” said a statement from Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.
“He 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 statement said.
Father Lombardi described the climate of the 30-minute encounter as “serene and communicative.”
He said the pope “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 church in Germany has been shaken over the past two years by revelations about clerical sex abuse and how the cases were handled by church officials. On the plane carrying him to Germany, the pope told reporters he understood the feelings of those who have left the church because of the abuse cases, but he appealed to Catholics to work against such crimes “from the inside.”
The German pope has met previously with sex abuse victims during his visits to the United States, Malta, Australia and Great Britain.