21 Jul 2008

Pope meets victims of sexual abuse

7:02 pm on 21 July 2008

Pope Benedict XVI met victims of sexual abuse by the clergy in Australia on Monday at a private mass.

The ABC reports the Pope listened to their stories and offered them consolation in the chapel of St Mary's Cathedral.

The meeting followed a public apology at the weekend to all Australian victims.

The pontiff issued the apology on Saturday, on the eve of his World Youth Day open-air mass in Sydney.

There have been 107 convictions for sexual abuse in the Catholic church in Australia but victims groups say there may be thousands of cases.

Pope Benedict left Sydney Airport for Rome at about 10.30am (AEST) on Monday.

An estimated 400,000 people were at Randwick racecourse on Sunday for the mass celebrated by the pope, who told them that they should build a new age free from greed.

The world "needs renewal", he said, and challenged the young pilgrims to be agents of change.