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Pope Benedict Apologises For Clerical Sexual Abuse

Pope Benedict XVI apologises for clerical sexual abuse in Australia - Pilgrims embark on Pilgrimage Walk

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI today delivered a heartfelt apology to the victims of sexual abuse by clergy in Australia.

Departing from his official homily, the Holy Father said: "Indeed, I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured, and I assure them that as their Pastor, I too share in their suffering."

The apology was delivered during a special service at St Mary's Cathedral the Dedication of a new altar before seminarians and other young religious people.

The Pope consecrated (blessed) the new white marble altar, featuring an image of the body of Jesus Christ, based on the sacred Shroud of Turin. As he addressed the full cathedral and forecourt, he used the new altar to highlight their role.

"Dear young seminarians and religious, you yourselves will become living altars, where Christ's sacrificial love is made present as an inspiration and a source of spiritual nourishment to everyone you meet."

Earlier today in his daily text message, the Holy Father said: "Dear friend, u must be holy & u must be missionary: never separate holiness from mission - BXVI".

Following the Mass, the Pope lunched with 50 current and retired Australian Bishops in St Mary's Cathedral House.

In Terrey Hills, more than 350 cardinals and bishops from overseas were enjoying a lunch hosted by the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell.

Meanwhile tens of thousands of pilgrims had already made their way across the Sydney Harbour Bridge by lunchtime as part of the Pilgrimage Walk from North Sydney to the Southern Cross Precinct (Randwick Racecourse) for tonight's Evening Vigil with the Holy Father.

Youth Festival performers including Bronx rapper Fr Stan Fortuna and popular Christian artist Matt Maher are entertaining pilgrims at Randwick from 12 noon until the Pope's arrival after 6.30pm.

The Evening Vigil will begin at 7pm with a Lighting of the Candles ceremony. The event will focus on the lives of the 10 WYD08 patrons including Blessed Mary MacKillop, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and Saint Maria Goretti.

As part of the Vigil, the Pope will lead Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction. He will then depart, and pilgrims will sleep-out under the stars.

The Pope will depart Southern Cross Precinct at 9pm and return tomorrow at 9am for a helicopter fly-over and motorcade through Centennial Park and Randwick Racecourse. The Final Mass will begin at 10am.

ENDS

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