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Pope Benedict's Deep Shame For Clergy Sexual Abuse

Pope Benedict Expresses Deep Shame For Clergy Sexual Abuse

Pope Benedict arrived in Washington for his first papal visit to the United States in the afternoon of 15th April (Washington time). On arrival he was greeted at the steps of his special Alitalia aircraft by President and Mrs George W Bush and their daughter Jenna - an honour the President has never given to another head of state.

Several hundred specially invited onlookers gave Pope Benedict a rapturous welcome as he left the aircraft, spoke to those waiting to welcome him and walked slowly with the Bush family through a military guard of honour to a terminal building for a private 15-minute conversation with the President. He then left by motorcade for the Apostolic Nunciature where he stayed overnight.

During the flight from Rome the Holy Father walked to the rear of the aircraft for a news conference with the journalists who travelled with him. He responded in English to questions that had been submitted by reporters in advance. Among the topics he addressed, which included Church-State relationships, were strong statements about sexual abuse in the Church.

"It is a great suffering for the Church in the United States and for the Church in general, and for me personally, that this could happen," he said. He continued: "It is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betray in this way their mission ... to these children. I am deeply ashamed and we will do what is possible so that this cannot happen again the future."

He went on to pledge that pedophiles would not be priests in the Catholic Church. "We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry," he said. "It is more important to have good priests than many priests. We will do everything possible to heal this wound."

This is the first papal visit to the United States since the degree of clergy sex abuse emerged in the early 2000s. Subsequent settlements have cost the Church in the USA hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Holy Father will start off the day on Wednesday, his 81st birthday, with a private Mass in the Nunciature chapel, followed by a morning reception at the White House and a private meeting with the president. The five-day U.S. trip has the theme "Christ Our Hope". Only two cities are on his itinerary, Washington and New York.

While in New York he will stop to pray and speak briefly at Ground Zero, and will also address the United Nations.


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