Pope Benedict XVI has now raised the topic of the sex abuse scandal three times in the last two days, and on Thursday afternoon, he held a private meetings with a group of sex abuse victims.
The director of the Vatican’s Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, told the Associated Press that Pope Benedict and Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, “met with a group of five or six victims for about 25 minutes in the chapel of the papal embassy, offering them encouragement and hope.”
According to Lombardi, the Holy Father told the survivors he would pray for them, their families and all victims of clergy sex abuse. The private audiences with the Pope each lasted for a several minutes and during the course of the meetings some survivors wept, Lombardi said.
This marks the fourth time that Benedict XVI has addressed the sex abuse scandal in some way. During his plane ride to the US he expressed his "deep shame" over the crisis and pledged to keep pedophiles out of the priesthood. On Wednesday night, he told the nation's bishops that the crisis was "sometimes very badly handled," and said they must reach out with love and compassion to victims. This morning at the Nationals Stadium Mass he also called on Catholic parishioners to do what they can to reach out to victims.
Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, WI noted that “he mentioned the sexual misconduct problem” three different times so far and that shows “it is very much on his mind”.
The Bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, Walter Nickless, also noted how the Pope has been “very open everywhere he’s gone about the clergy sexual abuse scandal.” He added that he “appreciated his comments about praying for our priests and that we have to take a responsibility for what’s gone wrong.”
Nickless also highlighted the Pope’s call for Catholics to support their priests saying, “we also know that there are many many good priests; we have to pray for them and encourage them and affirm them. Because it’s pretty tough for them these days as well.”