Pope Benedict Apologizes to Australian Abuse Victims
By Jacob Greber and Ed Johnson
July 19 (Bloomberg) -- Pope Benedict XVI apologized to victims of childhood sexual abuse by members of the Catholic Church's Australian clergy, saying those responsible should be brought to justice.
``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,'' the pontiff said today at a mass in Sydney. ``I would like to pause to acknowledge the shame which we have all felt as a result of the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy'' in Australia.
Australian support group Broken Rites, which says more than 3,500 people have sought its help during the past 15 years, demanded ``action, not just words,'' and said the Catholic Church must make it easier for victims of sexual abuse to take action in the courts.
The German-born pope addressed the issue during a visit to the U.S. in April, where some had criticized the Vatican's reluctance to confront child abuse. His apology today came as tens of thousands of Catholic pilgrims celebrating World Youth Day walked through Sydney and gathered for an overnight vigil.
``These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation,'' Benedict told clergy as he dedicated a new altar at St. Mary's Cathedral. ``Victims should receive compassion and care, and those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice.''
Fight Against `Evil'
Broken Rites says 107 Catholic priests and brothers have been sentenced in Australian courts for abuse since the group was set up in 1993.
It says the church's approach to tackling the problem lacks transparency and that many victims are reluctant to trust the institution to investigate abuse allegations independently.
The pope must tell his Australian bishops to ``stop blocking victims' access to justice in the civil courts'' by fighting litigation ``fiercely,'' the group said in a statement.
The abuse issue captured headlines last week as the leader of the Catholic Church in Australia acknowledged mishandling allegations of sexual assault by a priest more than 20 years ago. Cardinal George Pell announced a panel would review the case involving a former church education coordinator who says he was abused by a priest in 1982 when he was 29 years old.
``I ask all of you to support and assist your bishops, and to work together with them in combating this evil,'' said the pope.
Sydney Harbour Bridge was closed to traffic as the first pilgrims began crossing at 5:30 a.m. local time. They will sleep at the city's main horseracing track while awaiting a papal mass tomorrow before as many as 500,000 people that will close the weeklong World Youth Day celebrations.
``It is the climax of the week,'' said Dave Gale, 20, from Wagga Wagga, 450 kilometers (280 miles) southwest of Sydney. ``So many Christian people in one place for this event is incredible.''
Activists protesting Benedict's policies against contraception and abortion also marched through the city. The NotoPope Coalition, which includes gay rights activists and atheists, says it will hand out condoms and carry coat hangers to symbolize the death of women from ``backyard'' abortions.
Freedom of Speech
The Federal Court of Australia this week overturned police powers to fine protesters more than A$5,000 ($4,865) if they ``annoy'' people attending the event, saying the regulations introduced by the New South Wales state government infringe upon freedom of speech.
Protesters wore T-shirts with slogans such as ``Pope Go Homo'' and ``The Pope Is Wrong, Put a Condom On.''
World Youth Day is billed as the biggest youth festival in the world. Organizers say it is the largest event Australia has hosted, drawing people from 167 other countries.
The state government, which has spent A$86 million hosting the event, forecasts it will generate A$150 million in revenue for the local economy.
It is Benedict's first visit to Australia, where about 26 percent of the country's 21.3 million people described themselves as Catholic in the most recent census, in 2001. About 17 percent of the world's population is Catholic, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook.
To contact the reporters for this story: Jacob Greber in Sydney at email@example.comEd Johnson in Sydney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pope Benedict XVI warns of critical juncture for Christianity
Manila Times19 July 2008
Pope Benedict XVI warned Christian leaders Friday that the push to unite Christian churches was at a critical juncture, as Anglicans met to avert a schism over the ordination of women and gays.
The Pontiff, leading hundreds of thousands of Catholics in World Youth Day celebrations in Australia, also called on people of all religions to unite against sinister and indiscriminate forms of violence.
At a meeting with around 50 Christian leaders, including those from the Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran and Uniting churches, the Pontiff called on them to fight for unity within the Christian faith.
I think you would agree that the ecumenical movement has reached a critical juncture, the leader of the worlds 1.1 billion Catholics told a meeting in Sydneys Saint Marys Cathedral.
We must guard against any temptation to view doctrine as divisive and hence an impediment to the seemingly more pressing and immediate task of improving the world in which we live.
The Pope did not elaborate on what he saw as the critical juncture in the search for greater unity.
But his comments came as Anglican bishops from around the world gathered at Canterbury in England, for a once-a-decade conference amid splits between liberal and conservative elements of the church.
Around 650 bishops were to attend the 20-day conference, with the issue of gays and women in the church expected to dominate.
About a quarter of the churchs bishopsincluding most from Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and Ugandaare staying away, a week after the Church of England approved the ordination of women bishops.
The Pope later told leaders from the Muslim, Jewish and other faiths that religions had a special role in maintaining peace and uniting peoples.
A harmonious relationship between religion and public life is all the more important at a time when some people have come to consider religion as a cause of division rather than a force for unity, he said.
In a world threatened by sinister and indiscriminate forms of violence, the unified voice of religious people urges nations and communities to resolve conflicts through peaceful means and with full regard for human dignity.
After a series of private meetings Friday, the Pope took part at the start of a stations of the cross re-enactment of the last days of Jesus Christs life.
The re-enactment, held at some of Sydneys most famous sites including the Opera House, had been expected to draw between 350,000 and 450,000 spectators, organizers said.
Police moved seven activists from Broken Rites, a support group for victims of abuse by Catholic clergy, from outside St Marys Cathedral where the Pope was to pray at the start of the re-enactment.
Its really shameful of the church to be doing this, to be moving people on. Theyre just stopping people from being heard, said protester John Ellis.
Thousands of spectators gathered at each of the seven sites as the actors made their way around the 13 stations in bright sunshine in the heart of Sydney.
As night fell on the city, the crucifixion of Jesus was solemnly re-enacted at the former wharves where a day earlier the 81-year-old Pontiff received a rapturous welcome from some 200,000 young Catholic pilgrims.
The World Youth Day celebrations, aimed at strengthening the faith of young Catholics, ends on Sunday with a papal mass, which organizers hope will attract 500,000 people. -- AFP