Pope Begs Forgiveness Over Abuse Scandal At a Friday Mass in St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI promised to "do everything possible" to ensure that prelates don't rape or molest children ever again. But the statement did not satisfy abuse victims groups, who are demanding more accountability from the church.
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Pope Begs Forgiveness Over Abuse Scandal

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Pope Begs Forgiveness Over Abuse Scandal

Pope Begs Forgiveness Over Abuse Scandal

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

But as NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports from Rome, the pope's statement did not satisfy many victims.

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SYLVIA POGGIOLI: In his long speech, Pope Benedict spoke of the uniqueness of the role of the priesthood in the Catholic Church. But he also said that in this very year of joy, the sins of priest came to light, particularly the abuse of little ones.

POGGIOLI: (Through translator) We, too, consistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again.

POGGIOLI: Instead, he said the crisis is a summons to purification. That statement fell short of many victims' hopes.

BLOCK: We find it very, very disappointing.

POGGIOLI: Joelle Casteix is a spokesperson for the main U.S. clerical abuse victims' group, Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests.

BLOCK: While it is important to focus on the formation of new priests, it is far more important to keep kids safe right now by instituting a zero- tolerance policy to make sure that any man who has hurt a child, or any man who has covered up for someone who's hurt a child, is immediately removed from the priesthood and turned over to secular authorities.

POGGIOLI: Casteix says victims are demanding accountability.

BLOCK: Unless he says: This is exactly what I'm going to do, and this is exactly how I am going to involve law enforcement, and this is exactly my own responsibility in the matter - then it's just little more than words. And we need concrete action.

POGGIOLI: Today's Mass had been preceded by a vigil service last night in St. Peter's Square, in which the pope responded to pre-selected questions from five priests. In one query, Benedict was asked about the beauty of celibacy.

POGGIOLI: (Speaking foreign language)

POGGIOLI: One priest who was willing to speak on the sidelines of the ceremony was Father Jose Vasco of Mozambique.

R: (Through translator) The church first tried to resolve the cases on its own. But now that they have become so grave, the church must seek the full truth. And to do that, we need joint commissions with lay people, civil society, especially at a time when there is the appearance that the church has protected the guilty ones.

POGGIOLI: Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome.

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