Pope's "Sorry" Fails to Satisfy Oz Abuse Activists

The Star

July 21, 2008

Sydney - Four victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests who met Pope Benedict XVI before his departure from Australia, today were hand-picked by the church and not representative, an activist said.

Anthony Foster, who travelled from Britain in the hope of meeting the religious leader during his visit to Australia, said the pope's failure to meet him or to inform activists of the meeting showed a lack of compassion.

The four had clearly been "hand-picked by the church" and judging by past experience, the church was unlikely ever to say even who they were, Foster told AFP.

The pope had missed an opportunity to show the world the church was truly serious about the issue, he said.

"Until we know who they are we have to say they were not representative," he said.

"The action shows a lack of compassion in our case," he added.

Foster's daughter Emma committed suicide this year aged 26, after struggling for years to deal with abuse by a priest at primary school.

Her sister Katie, who was also abused, turned to alcohol in her teens and was left brain-damaged after being hit by a car while drunk.

In a statement, the Archdiocese of Sydney said the four victims who met the pope had been picked by the church's professional standards office for New South Wales state, the local church body dealing with complaints of abuse.

The archdiocese, headed by Australia's top Catholic cleric Cardinal George Pell, welcomed the meeting that followed the pope's unpreced-ented public apology on Saturday for sex abuse by some Australian priests.

"We are delighted that the Holy Father was able to spend time with victims of sexual abuse before his departure today, following a private mass which the Holy Father held for them."


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