Insights from the UK and beyond
(Photo: Girl waves papal flag before a Mass with Pope Benedict in London September 18, 2010/Kevin Coombs)
Pope Benedict apologized to victims of sexual abuse on Saturday, saying pedophile priests had brought "shame and humiliation" on him and the entire Roman Catholic Church. It was the 83-year-old pontiff's latest attempt to come to grips with the scandal that has rocked the 1.1 billion-member Church, particularly in Europe and the United States.
"I think of the immense suffering caused by the abuse of children, especially within the Church and by her ministers. Above all, I express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes ...," he said in his sermon inΒ Westminster Cathedral, the mother church for Roman Catholics in England and Wales and a symbol of the struggle of Catholics here in the late 19th century to assert their rights after the Reformation.
"I also acknowledge with you the shame and humiliation that all of us have suffered because of these sins," he said, adding that he hoped "this chastisement" would contribute to the healing of the victims and the purification of the Church.
He has apologized before for sexual abuse by priests -- such as in the letter to the Catholics of Ireland last March -- and has acknowledged that the Church was slow to deal with the problem. But his comments on Saturday were among his most succinct to date.
(Photo: Official papal visit memorabilia at Catholic bookshop in London September 15, 2010/Toby Melville)
Demonstrations are planned for Pope Benedict's four-day state visit to England and Scotland, with the main focus likely to be on a Protest the Pope campaign march in central London Saturday, Sept 18.
Other separate protests are planned, including a bus poster campaign by a group supporting women's ordination and a silent witness by the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland.
(Photo: Mark Fabbro, Chris Daly, Sue Cox, Margaret Kennedy and Peter Saunders (L-R), who said they were survivors of abuse by Catholic priests, pose after a news conference in London September 15, 2010/Toby Melville)
Victims of abuse by Catholic priests urged the Vatican on the eve of Pope Benedict's visit to Britain to hand over lists of suspected offenders to the police to prevent further cases of clerical sex crimes.
Speaking in London on Wednesday, a group of victims and activists said the Vatican should go beyond verbal apologies and offer concrete steps to make amends over clergy abuse.
One regular but regularly unannounced feature of papal trips in recent years has been the private meeting with local Catholics who were sexually abused as youths by priests. Journalists only find out about them after they've taken place. Just such a meeting seems to be on the cards during Pope Benedict's visit to Britain next week, but of course it does not appear in his official schedule. Chris Patten, the prime minister's special representative for the papal visit,Β said as much on Monday in an interview with BBC television (quote at the end of the clip):
"On several previous visits, the pope has met victims of abuse. He has never said he was going to meet them before he did and his meetings have always, for very understandable reasons, been private. I would be surprised if in this visit or any future visit he behaved in any different way."