Pope Can't Meet All Victims - Pell

July 21, 2008,23599,24050484-1702,00.html

IT was not possible for the Pope to make a personal apology to every Australian victim of sex abuse by Catholic clergy, the Archbishop of Sydney says.

Pope Benedict XVI met four victims of sex abuse by the clergy this morning after celebrating a private mass for them in Sydney.

The victims and their supporters joined the Pope for mass at St Mary's Cathedral before meeting him for up to half an hour in a last minute addition to the 81-year pontiff's itinerary.

Anthony Foster, whose two daughters were raped by a priest at their primary school, said the Catholic church has treated his family discourteously by not informing him or his family of the personal apology by the Pope.

Cardinal George Pell said today's meeting was worked out over a period of time.

"It was a service of reconciliation and healing. It was a small gathering which we hope will send out a message of the genuine sorrow of the Pope and of the Australian bishops."

Dr Pell said it was not possible for the Pope to meet all those who had sought a meeting with him.

"Many, many hundreds of people have contacted me wanting to meet the Pope," he said.

"I wasn't able to accommodate all of them."

Dr Pell said he did not know if the two men and two women, whom he said were aged in their 30, had pursued criminal or civil claims over the abuse they suffered.

They were selected by the church's Professional Standards Office, but the Cardinal said he did not know the selection criteria.

The meeting was organised over "a number of weeks", and the victims had wanted to keep their identities, and details of their conversations with the Pope, private, Dr Pell said.

When asked why the church had chosen people who were not prepared to speak publicly, Dr Pell replied: "I'm not sure that was a criterion one way or the other."

He then added: "There were no pre-conditions."

He said the church was genuine in its commitment to dealing with "these vexed issues" reasonably and compassionately.


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