Pope describes "immense suffering' of abuse victims

LONDON, Sept 18, 2010 (AFP) - Pope Benedict XVI expressed his "deep sorrow" Saturday for the "immense suffering" of children abused by Catholic priests, in a homily on the third day of his state visit to Britain.

"I think of the immense suffering caused by the abuse of children, especially within the Church and by her ministers," he said during mass at the Catholic Westminster Cathedral in London.

Pope Benedict XVI greets the crowds outside Westminster Cathedral in London, on September 18, 2010. AFP

"Above all, I express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes, along with my hope that the power of Christ's grace, his sacrifice of reconciliation, will bring deep healing and peace to their lives."

He added: "I also acknowledge, with you, the shame and humiliation which all of us have suffered because of these sins."

The pope said he hoped "this chastisement will contribute to the healing of the victims" and "the purification of the Church".

According to Vatican experts, the pope is expected to meet a group of 10 abuse victims in London on Saturday.

He also met victims on visits to Malta, the United States and Australia.

Victims groups say the meetings fall short of their demands that the pope meet their representatives, rather than hand-picked individuals.

As he arrived for the start of the visit to Britain on Thursday, Benedict said the Roman Catholic Church "has not been vigilant enough" on the issue of abuse by its members.

He admitted that Church authorities "did not act quickly or firmly enough to take the necessary action" after revelations of sexual abuse in Belgium, Ireland, the United States and other countries rocked the Catholic Church.

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