Pope Addresses Abuse Scandal

By Alyssa Braithwaite
Sydney Morning Herald
September 16, 2010

The Pope started his official state visit to Britain amid controversy, expressing his "shock and sadness" at the child sex abuse scandal rocking the Catholic church.

Pope Benedict XVI landed at Edinburgh International Airport on Thursday morning to begin his four-day visit to Scotland and England.

He was greeted by the Duke of Edinburgh, Catholic leaders and a kilted guard of honour from the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Thousands of people lined the streets as he was driven to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, where he was welcomed by the Queen.

They exchanged gifts before each made a speech to those gathered outside.

The Queen said the visit was an opportunity to "deepen the relationship" between Catholicism and the Churches of England and Scotland, while the Pope said he wanted to "extend the hand of friendship" to the entire UK, not just the Catholic population.

Campaigners have vowed to sabotage the Pope's visit, with threats of protests and Bible-burning, over the abuse of children by Catholic priests, and his opinions on issues such as gay equality and contraception.

During his flight from Rome, the 83-year-old pontiff addressed the abuse scandal, describing paedophile priests as a "perversion".

"These revelations for me have been a great shock and sadness," he told reporters.

"It is hard to understand how this perversion of the priestly ministry was possible.

"We are in a moment of penance and our first thoughts must be with the victims, what we can do to help these people overcome their trauma, return them to life and restore their faith."

Victims abused by priests, and secular campaigners, have called on Benedict to hand over all information about suspected abusers within the church.

During his visit, the Pope is widely expected to meet some of those who suffered.

The trip was further mired in controversy after one of his senior advisers, Cardinal Walter Kasper, compared Britain to a "ThirdWorld country".

The remark made headlines around the country, and he pulled out of the UK trip, but the Vatican said the cardinal had not intended "any kind of slight" and withdrew from the visit due to illness.

The negative press didn't stop an estimated 125,000 turning out to watch the Popemobile take part in the annual St Ninian's Day parade.

Benedict had lunch at the residence of the head of the Catholic church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, dining on a traditional dish of haggis, neeps and tatties.

In the late afternoon the Pope was due to attend a mass at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, before flying to London.

He will spend two days in London and then finish his UK tour in Birmingham on Sunday.

The trip is the first to the UK by a pontiff since John Paul II in 1982.

It is also the first to be designated a state visit because the Pope has been invited by the Queen rather than the church.

The total cost of the Pope's stay to the taxpayer will be between STG10 million ($A16.7 million) and STG12 million ($A20 million), with the bill for policing estimated at an additional STG1.5 million ($A2.5 million).


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