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Sex abuse victims describe emotional meeting with Pope

world Updated: Apr 20, 2010 13:20 IST

Victims of clerical sex abuse have described their meeting with Pope Benedict XVI as "emotional" and "great", though the pontiff did not offer a formal apology.

"It was emotional, I saw tears in his eyes," a victim said on Monday referring to his Sunday meeting with the Pope in Rabat town in Malta.

"It was great," he said.

It was for the first time Benedict met the victims since the scandal involving the Catholic Church emerged in the US, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Italy and Malta. But the pope did not formally apologise to the alleged victims.

The Pope on Sunday expressed his "shame and sorrow" about what happened in Malta, the Vatican said in a statement.

One victim said he and the others only learned of their appointment with the Pope an hour before it took place. "It wasn't organised, it wasn't part of the plan," he said.

The group met the pontiff in a small chapel in Rabat and prayed together.

"When you feel the pope next to you, it is something great," he said. "He was emotional when he heard our stories."

The victim, a 37-year-old father of two, said the pope felt sorrow for what they had suffered.

"I feel sorry for him because all the mistakes and all the abuse were under the other Pope (Pope John Paul II). Benedict is a very courageous man because he is meeting the victims and crying with them."

Another alleged sex abuse victim said he too was moved by his encounter with Benedict.

"I was very happy to meet the Pope," he said. 'The Pope prayed for me and all my friends'. He said 'I will try to help you all'.

"He prayed with them and assured them that the church is doing, and will continue to do, all in its power to investigate allegations, to bring to justice those responsible for abuse, and to implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people in the future," it said.