'Moved' pope meets abuse victims in Germany
Pope Benedict XVI met with victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy Friday on a visit to his native Germany and expressed regret for their suffering, the Vatican said in a statement.
"Moved and deeply shaken by the sufferings of the victims, the Holy Father expressed his deep compassion and regret over all that was done to them and their families," said the statement.
"He assured the people present that those in positions of responsibility in the Church are seriously concerned to deal with all crimes of abuse and are committed to the promotion of effective measures for the protection of children and young people.
"Pope Benedict XVI is close to the victims and he expresses the hope that the merciful God, Creator and Redeemer of all mankind, may heal the wounds of the victims and grant them inner peace," concluded the statement.
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.
Over the past year large-scale paedophilia scandals have rocked the Catholic Church in a number of countries, including Ireland, Austria, Belgium, the United States and the pope's native Germany.
During a visit to Britain this time last year, the pope met five victims from various parts of Britain and expressed his "deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes".
In Britain, the pope also told the victims that the Church "is doing all in its power to investigate allegations, to collaborate with civil authorities and to bring to justice clergy and religious accused of these egregious crimes".
The pope has previously met with victims while on visits to Malta, the United States and Australia. In Malta the victims said the pope wept as he met them.
© 2011 AFP