By Anthony Barich
SYDNEY, Australia, JULY 19, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI expressed his deep sorrow for the suffering of sexual abuse victims during his homily at Mass with Australian clergy.
Departing from his prepared homily during the Saturday liturgy at St. Mary’s Cathedral, the Pope 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 Pontiff’s prepared speech addressed acknowledge “the shame which we have all felt as a result of the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy and religious in this country.”
“These misdeeds,” he said, “which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation. They have caused great pain and have damaged the Church’s witness.
“I ask you to support and assist your bishops, and to work together with them in combating this evil.”
Lorena Portocarrero, 25, a consecrated laywoman who was in the fifth row at St. Mary’s Cathedral to hear the apology, said it was clear from his delivery that Benedict XVI was genuinely sorry for acts perpetrated by others.
“He was really sorry, and said that he understood it was painful for others,” said Portocarrero, part of the Marian Community of Reconciliation in Sydney.
“He showed a lot of humility and he spoke from his heart,” she said. “You could tell he was really sorry; when he was celebrating Mass he was really prayerful, he took his time each time he was talking.
“I was happy and sad as well. I’m happy because I’m happy that the head of the church was able to say sorry to the people for the abuse does by members of the Church, who hurt the people whom they are meant to serve.”
John Paul Escarlan, a 24-yaer-old student at Holy Spirit Seminary in Parramatta, Sydney, said Benedict XVI’s words were “a reminder not to betray the trust of the people I am meant to serve, because the Pope said [the sexual abuse] was an evil thing.”
“I was personally touched by the message,” Escarlan admitted. “Even though it was not the Pope himself who did the abuse, I was touched by the humility that the Pope has shown to us.”
“The most important thing he will do,” added the seminarian, “is to say sorry to the victims of whom the Church has hurt.”