News / Europe

Pope Meets Pedophile Priest Victims in London

Pope Benedict XVI presides over a Mass at Westminster Cathedral in central London, on September 18, 2010
Pope Benedict XVI presides over a Mass at Westminster Cathedral in central London, on September 18, 2010
Jennifer Glasse

On the third day of his trip to Britain, Pope Benedict said Mass in London's Catholic cathedral, held a prayer vigil in Hyde Park and addressed one of the biggest challenges facing the Catholic Church - child abuse by the clergy.

Pope Benedict met with four women and one man, all victims of abuse at the hands of the Catholic clergy when they were children. The Vatican said the pope expressed his sorrow. His spokesman Father Federico Lombardi did not have details of the victims or the meeting.

"There was a little prayer at the beginning and at the end, it was very discreet, practically no one present, only the interpreter in order for the pope to understand better, but there were no other people present," he said.

Earlier in the day,  at Mass the pope expressed his deep sorrow for the unspeakable crimes of child abuse, his strongest public apology to date.

In central London, about 12,000 people protested the pope's visit with a march to the prime minister's office. Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said the pope's remarks about abuse were not enough.

"The pope has yet again apologised for the child abuse scandal, but yet again, he has apologized for the failings of others, and never for his own personal failings," he said.

Geoffrey Robertson is a lawyer who has just written a book outlining what he calls a Vatican cover up of widespread abuse. Pope Benedict, he says knew the abuse was happening.

"If he is to offer actions rather than words,  he must surely set up an independent commission all the evidence that he's received over the last 30 years of pedophelia, of pedophile priests," he said.

Pope Benedict completed the day with a vigil in Hyde Park, his last public appearance in London. On Sunday he heads to the northwestern city of Birmingham to create England's first post-reformation saint.

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