'Moved and shocked' pope meets abuse victims in Germany
Pope Benedict XVI met with victims of abuse by Catholic clergy Friday on a visit to his native Germany and expressed regret for their suffering, the Vatican said in a statement.
"The Holy Father, moved and shocked by the suffering of the abuse victims, expressed his deep sympathy and regret for everything that was done to them and their families," said the statement released by the German Bishops' Conference after the meeting in the eastern city of Erfurt.
"He assured those present that Church authorities have a vested interest in clearing up all abuse cases and is working to promote effective measures to protect children and young people," the statement continued.
The German Catholic Church was thrown into turmoil last year as hundreds came forward saying they were abused as minors between the 1950s and the 1980s amid suspicions that the crimes were swept under the carpet.
The scandal badly damaged the image of the Church in Germany.
At least in part as a reaction to the abuse scandal, Catholics have been leaving the Church in droves. In 2010, more than 181,000 people deserted the Roman Catholic Church -- roughly one every three minutes.
The Catholic Church's top archbishop in Germany, Robert Zollitsch, admitted when the crisis broke that the institution had "failed" in its response to the scandal.
© 2011 AFP