20 Jul 2008

Pope apologises to sex abuse victims of clergy

6:21 am on 20 July 2008

Pope Benedict XVI has apologised to people sexually abused by members of the clergy in Australia.

The 81-year-old pontiff raised the issue during a ceremony to consecrate the altar of St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney on Saturday, where he has been participating in World Youth Day activities.

"Here I would like to pause to acknowledge the shame which we have all felt as a result of the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy and religious in this country," the Pope said.

"Indeed I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured and I assure them that, as their pastor, I too share in their suffering.

"These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation. They have caused great pain, they have damaged the church's witness."

The Pope called on his audience of 3,400 people, including Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell, bishops, seminarians, and religious and school groups, to work together in "combatting this evil".

"Victims should receive compassion and care, and those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice," he said.

"It is an urgent priority to promote a safer and more wholesome environment, especially for young people.

"In these days marked by the celebration of World Youth Day, we are reminded of how precious a treasure has been entrusted to us in our young people, and how great a part of the church's mission in this country has been dedicated to their education and care."

Protests against Church doctrine

About 1,000 protesters rallied against Church doctrine, chanting "pope is wrong, put a condom on" and throwing inflated condoms into the air.

One protester dressed as a drag queen called "Pope Alice", while others wore "Pope Go Homo" T-shirts, as some 200,000 young pilgrims marched across Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Police kept protesters and pilgrims apart, but arrested one pilgrim after he punched a "No Pope" protester in the face.