*** TRIGGERS *** Pope Benedict XVI apologizes for the 'evil' of clergy sex abuse in Australia
By ROHAN SULLIVAN
The Associated Press
Pope Benedict XVI said he was "deeply sorry' for the sexual abuse of children by Australia's Catholic clergy, delivering a strongly-worded apology Saturday that described their acts as evil and a grave betrayal of trust.
"I would like to pause to 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," Benedict said during an address at a Mass in Sydney.
"I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured. I assure them as their pastor that I too share in their suffering," he said.
"Those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice."
Benedict has expressed regret before about the clergy abuse scandal that has rocked the church in recent years — notably during a visit to the United States in April when he also met privately with a small number of victims. But the language of Saturday's apology was stronger than the pope's comments in the United States.
Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said the pope added the words that he was deeply sorry to the original text given to reporters because he wanted to "personally underline" that he felt close to the victims.
There was no immediate word whether Benedict would meet with victims of clergy abuse during his Australia trip, which ends Monday.
Anthony Foster, the father of two Australian girls who were allegedly raped by a Catholic priest as children, has been publicly seeking a meeting with Benedict during his visit. He said he was disappointed the pope's remarks repeated the church's expressions of regret but offered no practical assistance for victims.
"What we haven't had is an unequivocal, unlimited practical response that provides for all the victims for their lifetime," he said. "The practical response needs to include both financial help ... and psychological help."
Support groups for victims of church abuse in Australia, whose numbers are not known but who activists say are in the thousands, accuse the church of covering up of the scale of the problem and fighting compensation claims lodged in civil courts.
"Sorry is not enough. Victims want action, not just words," the Broken Rites group said in a statement posted Saturday on its Web site.
The pontiff is in Australia to lead hundreds of thousands of pilgrims in the church's World Youth Day, a global celebration meant to inspire a new generation of Catholics.
During his appearances in Australia, Benedict has spoken about the need to strengthen traditional Christian values including charity and chastity, and decried the selfishness and greed of today's "cult of material possessions."
In his remarks Saturday, the pope said the sexual abuse scandal had badly damaged the church.
"These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation," he said. "They have caused great pain, they have damaged the church's witness."
About 500 people protested Saturday for what they called the pope's antiquated and discriminatory views, holding a contest for the T-shirt that would most annoy Roman Catholics and chanting: "The pope is wrong, put a condom on!"
The boisterous protest at a square in the city's center included inflated condoms floating above the crowd and some participants dressed as nuns and priests. They listened to speeches by activists supporting sex education and safe sex practices at Taylor Square.
"It's good that people protest against the pope's homophobia and misogyny," Alex Bainbridge of the Socialist Alliance told the crowd. "We don't want a war against sex, we want a war against sexually transmitted infections. We're here for the people who could be saved if they had adequate sex education and access to condoms."
Police on horseback and on foot patrolled the site at Taylor Square, but there were no signs of trouble.
Papal apologies have been few in the long history of the church, mostly confined to correcting historical errors such as condemning Galileo for maintaining that the Earth is not the center of the universe or asking forgiveness for the sins of Christians over the centuries.
But Benedict also said he was "deeply sorry" regarding remarks on Islam he made in Germany in 2006 that linked the religion to violence and set off a fury across the Muslim world.
Pope John Paul II's plan for a sweeping apology timed for the new millennium in 2000 drew resistance from some cardinals. But John Paul went ahead, asking forgiveness for the sins of Catholics through the ages, including wrongs inflicted on Jews, women and minorities.
Among other apologies, John Paul, during a 1992 visit to Senegal asked forgiveness for Christians involved in the slave trade and during a 1995 visit to the Czech Republic for violence by Catholics against Protestants during the 16th century.
Benedict will join tens of thousands of young Catholics for a couple of hours later Saturday at an open-air vigil held at a horse race track in Sydney. He will lead a Mass on Sunday before a crowd estimated at more than 200,000 that will mark the culmination of the World Youth Day festival.
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