Pope meets abuse victims during German trip

Fri Sep 23, 2011 6:14pm EDT
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By Philip Pullella and Sarah Marsh

ERFURT, Germany (Reuters) - Pope Benedict held a surprise meeting on Friday with victims of clerical sexual abuse and expressed his deep regret for their suffering, saying the church was committed to the protection of children, the Vatican said.

The private meeting came on the second day of Benedict's four-day trip to Germany, where record numbers of Catholics have officially left the faith in protest at clerical abuse, and where the Church faces some 600 requests for compensation.

The Pope was "moved and deeply shaken" and assured victims the Church was "committed to the promotion of effective measures to protect children," the Vatican said in a statement.

The meeting took place in a seminary in Erfurt, in eastern Germany, and was similar to those held by Benedict on other recent trips. The wording of the statement also mirrored those issued after previous meetings.

Victims' associations have said the Vatican has not done enough to bring the perpetrators to justice, a view echoed by German victims who joined 8,000 protesters on a march through Berlin, where the Pope began his visit.

Earlier on Friday the Pope visited the monastery where Martin Luther lived before launching the Reformation, and warned his Lutheran hosts that "a new form of Christianity" posed challenges to mainline Protestants and Catholics alike.

While not naming them, it was clear he was referring to the evangelical and Pentecostal churches which have spread rapidly, especially in developing countries, by attracting converts from more established churches.

He appealed for unity between Roman Catholics and Protestants, who began their split from the Catholic Church when Luther, who had lived in Erfurt as a Catholic monk, posted his 95 theses on a church door in 1517.   Continued...

<p>Pope Benedict XVI and Bishop Joachim Wanke leave St. Mary's Cathedral in Erfurt September 23, 2011. REUTERS/Frank Augstein/Pool</p>