Pope Lands in Oz on Sorry Note

The Standard

July 14, 2008

Pope Benedict arrived in Australia for an international Catholic youth festival and promised to apologize for a sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the church in the country.

The 81-year-old pontiff arrived in Sydney after more than 20 hours of flying from Rome to start the 10-day trip, the longest of his pontificate so far and the first to the Pacific.

In a message to young Australians at the start of his trip yesterday, the pope urged them to look to God for the answers to their deep questions about the meaning of their lives.

Pope Lands in Oz on Sorry Note

After a refueling stop in Darwin, he arrived in Sydney, site of the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Youth festivities. He will rest for three days in a secluded residence outside the city before the official start of his visit on Thursday.

During an in-flight news conference with reporters on his way from Rome, the pope said everything possible would be done to prevent a recurrence of Australia's sexual abuse crisis and to promote healing among the victims.

"It is essential for the church to reconcile, to prevent, to help and also to see [its] guilt," he said. "It must be clear - being a priest is incompatible with this behavior because priests are in the service of our Lord."

The issue of sexual abuse of minors by priests has been a major scandal in several countries after local church leaders were found to have moved abusers from parish to parish instead of defrocking them or reporting them to authorities.

When he visited the United States last April the pope spoke repeatedly about the "shame" the scandal had wrought on the church there and he met with abuse victims.

Broken Rites, which represents abuse victims in Australia, has a list of 107 convictions for sexual abuse but says the real number is higher and only a handful go to court.

Victims say the Catholic Church in Australia continues to cover up abuse by clergy despite issuing an apology for past abuse and compensation. Some plan to protest during the visit.


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