At the end of his visit to Australia, pope Benedict XVI has met victims of child abuse by Catholic clergy, the Vatican has said.
The 81-year-old pope wanted to show his concern for those who had suffered, said Father Frederico Lombardi, papal spokesman.
According to victims’ group Broken Rites, the pope had not met victims with ongoing grievances against the Church.
Two days before the meeting, Benedict XVI apologised for what he termed the “evil” of sex abuse by clergymen.
‘a group of representatives’
“With regard to abuses by members of the clergy, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on Monday morning celebrated Mass with a group of representatives of victims of sexual abuse”, Father Lombardi said.
“The Pope listened to their stories and consoled them. He assured them of his spiritual proximity and proposed to continue to pray for them, for their families and for all victims.”
In a chapel at St Mary’s Cathedral House in Sydney, the pontiff met two male and two female victimes of abuse.
Father Lombardi said that the pope spoke to each of the victims after Mass, in an atmosphere of “respect, spirituality and of intense emotions”.
But the BBC’s Nick Bryant, in Sydney, said that Broken Rites, the main victims’ group, was not consulted about the Pope’s unscheduled meeting with victims. He said that the group felt the pope’s gesture “did not show reconciliation”.
The Catholic Church in Australia has been accused by some victims of stalling over compensation payouts, and trying to cover up some cases of abuse.
The meeting marked the end of the pope’s nine-day visit to Australia, for the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day.
The final Mass on Sunday, held at a racecourse in Sydney, has been attended by more than 200 000 young people.