While in transit to the United States today, Pope Benedict XVI took the opportunity to respond to the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, saying that he will do “everything possible to heal this wound” and that he will work to ensure pedophiles don't become priests.
The Pope’s words were part of answers he gave to questions submitted in advance by reporters aboard Shepherd One, a special Alitalia airliner that is ferrying him to the United States.
"It is a great suffering for the Church in the United States and for the Church in general and for me personally that this could happen," Benedict said. "It is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betray in this way their mission ... to these children."
"I am deeply ashamed and we will do what is possible so this cannot happen again in the future," the pope said.
Benedict XVI also said he was determined to prevent pedophiles from becoming priests in the Roman Catholic Church.
"We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry," Benedict said in English. "It is more important to have good priests than many priests. We will do everything possible to heal this wound."
Pedophilia is "absolutely incompatible" with the priesthood," Benedict said.
The Catholic Church in the United States has been hit particularly hard on the East Coast by the sex abuse scandals, and the Pope’s visit could serve as a key step in the healing process for the Church.
The Holy Father also spoke about how he sees this, his first visit as Pope to the U.S.
He described his visit as a voyage to meet a "great people and a great Church."
When the Pope lands at Andrews Air Force Base at 4 p.m. EST, President Bush will give him the honor of picking him up at the base.
On board the plane, the Pope also said that when he meets with President Bush tomorrow, he will discuss immigration and the difficulties of families who are separated by immigration.