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Pope Benedict Apologizes for Clergy Abuse in Australia

  • Phil Mercer

Pope Benedict has apologized for sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Australia and has insisted that those responsible should be brought to justice. The pope told a mass in Sydney Saturday sexual abuse by clergy had brought shame to the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict is in Sydney for World Youth Day. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports.

Pope Benedict told a mass in Sydney the behavior of pedophile priests was "evil" and a grave betrayal of trust that had brought great shame on the Catholic Church.

He said the perpetrators should be brought to justice.

"I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured and I assure them that as their pastor I too share in their suffering. These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation," he said.

The papal apology was widely anticipated and echoes the contrition the pope expressed on a visit to the United States earlier this year.

Support groups for victims in Australia have said that Pope Benedict's apology was not sufficient.

They have called for the church to end what they describe as a continuing cover-up of the scale of the problem.

They have also demanded "appropriate" levels of financial compensation.

Anthony Foster, whose daughter committed suicide after being raped by a Catholic priest who also attacked her sister, says the pope's words do not go far enough.

"I'll accept an apology if the pope will wholeheartedly embrace the notion of begging forgiveness from victims, and supporting them in every way possible and putting the full resources of the Church behind that support so they can have a reasonable life. They will never recover fully from what has happened to them," said Foster.

There have been 107 convictions of pedophile clergy in Australia, but campaigners have insisted that there could be thousands of victims, as only a few cases ever go to court.

Sexual abuse by Catholic priests has overshadowed the pope's visit to World Youth Day in Sydney, with senior church officials reopening a 25-year-old case of indecent assault in Australia only days before the pontiff arrived.

World Youth Day festivities have continued in Australia's biggest city, with tens of thousands of pilgrims marching across the Sydney harbor bridge on their way to an all-night vigil at a race course before a giant, open-air papal mass on Sunday.

World Youth Day is a global celebration that is meant to inspire a new generation of Catholics