Pope Benedict XVI to Apologise in Australia for Sex Abuse

By Suellen Hinde
Perth Now
July 12, 2008,21598,24010930-5008620,00.html

POPE Benedict XVI will apologise for sexual abuse by priests and will talk about how the Church can "prevent, heal and reconcile" on his Australian visit.

The Pope today issued a strongly-worded message of hope and sorrow as he boarded a plane in rome last night for his first Australian visit, coinciding with World Youth Day.

He called on young pilgrims to be "instruments of renewal" in bringing people back to God and the church.

And he revealed he will use his trip Down Under to apologise for sexual abuse by priests and talk about how the Church can "prevent, heal and reconcile".

"We have to consider what was insufficient in our behaviour and how we can prevent, heal, reconcile," Benedict XVI told reporters as his flight prepared to leave Rome.

"This is the essential content of what we will say as we apologise."

Expected to arrive at 3pm today in Sydney to celebrate the 23rd World Youth Day, the Pope expressed concern that many of today's younger generation lacked hope.

"They are perplexed by the questions that present themselves ever more urgently in a confusing world, and they are often uncertain which way to turn for answers," the Pope said.

"They see poverty and injustice and they long to find solutions. They are challenged by the arguments of those who deny the existence of God and they wonder how to respond.

"They see great damage done to the natural environment through human greed and they struggle to find ways to live in greater harmony with nature and with one another."

The world leader of the Catholic Church said young people would find the answers they were looking for in their faith.

"The spirit points us towards the way that leads to life, to love and to truth," he said.

"The spirit points us towards Jesus Christ. In him we find the answers that we are seeking, we find the goals that are truly worth living for, we find the strength to pursue the path that will bring about a better world."

The Pope will spend the next three days in Sydney resting. He has no plans to travel anywhere else in Australia, but said in his message to Australians: "My heart reaches out to all of you, including those who are sick or in difficulties of any kind."

He said World Youth Day would transform Australia into the "great southern land of the Holy Spirit".

"How much our world needs a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit," the Pope said.

"It is my firm belief that young people are called to be instruments of that renewal, communicating to their peers the joy they have experienced through knowing and following Christ, and sharing with others the love that the spirit pours into their hearts."

He said he was "very much looking forward" to the time he would spend with young pilgrims from all over the world and thanked all those involved with World Youth Day.

"Many of the young people have made great sacrifices in order to undertake the journey to Australia, and I pray that they will be rewarded abundantly," he said.

Benedict XVI is the third pontiff to visit Australia after Pope John Paul II (1995 and 1986) and Pope Paul VI (1970). As the leader of one-billion Catholics, his visit will put Australia and Sydney in the world spotlight.

During his visit, the Pope is expected to formally apologise for the Church's handling of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and may meet abuse victims, as he did on a trip to the US earlier this year.

He is also expected to reach out to Aborigines, following the example of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.

World Youth Day officially begins on Tuesday, with Mass conducted by Sydney Catholic Archbishop Cardinal George Pell at Barangaroo.

It culminates with papal mass at Randwick Racecourse, next Sunday, which is expected to attract 300,000 to 500,000 pilgrims.


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