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ERFURT, Germany (Reuters) - Pope Benedict held an unannounced meeting on Friday with German victims of sexual abuse by priests and expressed his deep regret for their suffering and that of their families, the Vatican said in a statement.
The Pope, who is on a four-day trip to his native Germany, was "moved and deeply shaken by the sufferings of the victims" and assured them the church was committed to the promotion of effective measures to protect children, the Vatican said.
The meeting took place in a seminary in Erfurt, in eastern Germany.
The private meeting was similar to those he has held on other recent trips, including one to Britain last September. The wording of the Vatican statement was also similar to those issued after previous meetings.
The Roman Catholic Church in Germany has received almost 600 requests for compensation for abuse, while a victims' association estimates that more than 2,000 people were mistreated by Catholic priests in recent decades.
Some 8,000 people opposed to Benedict's teachings on sexuality and angry at the cases of clerical abuse marched through central Berlin on Thursday.
Among them were victims of clerical sexual and physical abuse who said the Vatican had turned a blind eye to their plight and not done enough to bring the guilty to justice.
A record 181,000 German Catholics officially quit the Church last year, many in protest at the scandals.
Reporting by Philip Pullella; writing by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Kevin Liffey