.- At the consecration of the altar at St. Maryâs Cathedral in Sydney this morning, Pope Benedict XVI issued an anticipated formal apology to people who experienced sexual abuse by clergy of the Australian Catholic Church.
During his message to 3,400 of Australiaâs bishops, seminarians and novices the Pope paused to address the issue that attracted significant media interest in light of World Youth Day held in Sydney.
âHere 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 and religious in this country.â
âThese misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation.â
âThey have caused great pain, they have damaged the churchâs witness.â
The Holy Father then urged the religious members of the Church who were present, to work together in âcombating this evil.â
âVictims should receive compassion and care, and those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice.â
âIt is an urgent priority to promote a safer and more wholesome environment, especially for young people.â
âIn these days marked by the celebration of World Youth Day, we are reminded of how precious a treasure has been entrusted to us in our young people, and how great a part of the Churchâs mission in this country has been dedicated to their education and care.â
The Popeâs statements follow his comments about sex abuse and the Church made to the media during the Papal flight to Sydney, where he said, âWe have to consider what was insufficient in our behaviour and how we can prevent, heal, reconcile.â
âHe was really sorry, and said that he understood it was painful for others,â said Lorena, part of the Marian Community of Reconciliation in Sydney, who was close to the Pope, sitting in the fifth row.
"âI was personally touched by the message. Even if it was not the Pope who committed the abuse, I was touched by the humility that the Pope has shown to us," said John Paul Esclaran, a 24 year old Filipino seminarian, part of the Diocese of Parramatta and studying at the Holy Spirit Seminary.
This apology is a similar to statements made by the Pope in his recent visit to the United States.
Pope's message to young seminarians and religious of the Australian Catholic Church
âDear friends: with great generosity you have set out on a particular path of consecration, grounded in your Baptism and undertaken in response to the Lordâs personal call."
"You have committed yourselves, in different ways, to accepting Christâs invitation to follow him, to leave all behind, and to and to devote your lives to the pursuit of holiness and the service of his people."
âIn this way, dear young seminarians and religious, you yourselves will become living altars, where Christâs sacrificial love is made present as an inspiration and a source of spiritual nourishment to everyone you meet."
âBy embracing the Lordâs call to follow him in chastity, poverty and obedience, you have begun a journey of radical discipleship which will make you âsigns of contradictionâ (cf. Lk 2:34) to many of your contemporaries."
âModel your lives daily on the Lordâs own loving self-oblation in obedience to the will of the Father. You will then discover the freedom and joy which can draw others to the Love which lies beyond all other loves as their source and their ultimate fulfilment.â
âListening to the sharing of the nun and what she saying about her life as a religious person, I was inspired about my own discernment, and said to myself, this is the life Iâm going to take," said John Paul.
"It added to my discernment, it certainly helped.â