Pope 'Deeply Moved' by Victims Stories, says Fr Lombardi


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(18 Apr 10 - RV) Pope Benedict has met privately with victims of abuse by clergy during his Apostolic Visit to the Island Nation of Malta. The Holy Father met the group of eight men, who were abused as children, in the Apostolic Nunciature in Rabat. The meeting took place on the Pope's return from Floriana, where he had led Maltese faithful in the celebration of Mass on Granary Square Sunday Morning.

A Vatican statement released shortly after the encounter says the Pope was "deeply moved by their stories and expressed his shame and sorrow over what victims and their families have suffered. He prayed with them and assured them that the Church is doing, and will continue to do, all in its power to investigate allegations, to bring to justice those responsible for abuse and to implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people in the future"

Vatican Press Office Director, Fr Federico Lombardi held a press conference shortly after the Pope's meeting with the victims. He described the meeting as "intense", yet "serene". He said Pope Benedict XVI was ‘deeply moved' by what each of the victims had to tell him. Fr Lombardi told journalists that the entire meeting lasted 20 minutes and was held in the Chapel of the nunciature. The meeting started with prayer and then the Pope received the victims individually. The meeting ended with all present praying together and the Pope then blessed the victims.

There had been intense press speculation regarding this meeting in the weeks leading up to Pope Benedict's arrival here, yesterday evening speaking to the press Vatican Press Office Director, Fr Federico Lombardi S.J, repeated what he had always said, that if the meeting was to take place it would be a private and personal encounter and that is exactly what it was.

The eight men, who are now mostly in their mid-to -late 30's and 40's, were abused by priests as children at St Joseph's orphanage in Malta. They had requested this meeting with Pope Benedict through their bishops, Bishop Mario Grech of Gozo, and Archbishop Paul Cremona. The bishops accompanied them this morning. After the meeting, Lawrence Grech, spokesman for the group and himself a victim, spoke to the press following the papal visit at the centre in Valetta. Visibly moved he told journalists that his personal encounter with the Pope had given him great spiritual courage. Speaking to the Times of Malta he said:"We now have peace in our hearts, even because the Pope found time to meet us. We now look forward to the end of the court case, and closure of this chapter."