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Pope Willing to Meet With Sex Abuse Victims

A Vatican spokesman says Pope Benedict is willing to meet with victims of pedophile priests.

Reverend Federico Lombardi made the statement to Vatican Radio on Friday.

Lombardi said the church must also cooperate with police and judicial authorities because it is the only way to regain trust.

The pope and the Vatican have been heavily criticized in Europe following newly revealed cases of sex abuse by priests. Church officials in Belgium, Germany and Ireland also have openly criticized the Vatican for failing to come to terms with the crisis and for failing to help its victims.

Despite the criticism, a top cleric defended Pope Benedict's handling of the scandal during Easter Sunday services.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano said the church should not be influenced by what he called "petty gossip."

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.