On Saturday at the Apostolic Nunciature in London, Pope Benedict XVI met with a group of victims of clerical sexual abuse, the Vatican’s press office has announced. There he expressed “deep sorrow and shame” over what victims and their families had suffered.
A press release from the Holy See’s Press Office said that the Pope was moved by what the victims said to him.
He prayed with the victims, that they might experience healing and reconciliation and that they be able to overcome their past and present sufferings with “serenity and hope for the future,” in the words of the press release.
Pope Benedict reportedly assured the victims that the Catholic Church is continuing to take action to protect young people and is doing everything to investigate allegations, to work with civil authorities and to bring to justice clergy and religious accused of “these egregious crimes.”
The Pope was also scheduled to address a group of professionals and volunteers dedicated to protecting children and young people in church environments.
At his Saturday morning Mass Pope Benedict based his homily on the theme of the Precious Blood of Christ. He explained that martyrs, sex abuse victims, the sick, elderly, handicapped and those who suffer mentally and spiritually all share in the suffering of Christ on the cross.
Elsewhere, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi responded to apparent media confusion about Pope Benedict XVI’s message to victims of sexual abuse during that homily. The spokesman explained that sex abuse victims differ from martyrs but both can find hope in the cross of Christ.
Meeting with international journalists in the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Hall, Fr. Lombardi answered one reporter's question about a possible connection between martyrs and abuse victims.
Questioning the reporter’s assumed link between martyrdom and suffering abuse, Fr. Lombardi said, "I don't think this is the sense of the homily. The blood of Christ and the cross is a message of hope and confidence for all people who suffer problems and have the experience of suffering."
He continued, "the problem of the victims is different obviously, but it is true that they have an experience of deep suffering. In this sense, also, the cross is a message for everyone that (suffers), also for the victims, in the hope of finding the way to reconciliation, renewal and to new life.
"But," he concluded, "I don't think there is a parallel or a derived connection between martyr and victim (of sexual abuse), this is different."