PAPAL MASS IN CATHEDRAL
POPE BENEDICT spoke of his shame and sorrow as he delivered an apology for the clergy abuse scandals which have plagued the Church in Australia. Speaking to seminarians and young religious as well as Australia's bishops during a Mass in Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral on July 19, Benedict XVI said: "Here I would like to pause to acknowledge of the shame which we have all felt as the result of the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy and religious in this country. 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.
"These misdeeds constitute a grave betrayal of trust and they deserve unequivocal condemnation. They've caused great pain. They've damaged the Church's witness. I ask all of you to support and assist your bishops and work together with them in combating this evil. Victims should receive compassion and care and howsoever it is possible these evils must be brought to justice.
"It is an urgent priority to provide a safe and more wholesome environment especially for young people. In these days marked by the celebration of World Youth Day we are reminded of how precious a treasure has been entrusted to us in our young people."
During the Mass the Pope consecrated the Sydney cathedral's new altar.
Benedict used it as a symbol of the renewed dedication to Christ and the Church that he said he hoped would be undertaken by Australia's Catholic community and by each of its members.
The Pope also spoke of the difficulties of consecrated life while praising those who chose to follow their vocations into the priesthood and religious life. He said that it was important never to forget "that a life of celibacy for the kingdom means a life fully dedicated to love". He also said that the altar was a symbol of Christ's sacrifice.
"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,he said.
Commentators, victims and some bishops had been expecting the Pope to apologise for the sexual abuse scandals in Australia as he did during his visit to the United States earlier this year.
On the flight from Rome the Pope said he would speak about the problem in Sydney because "being a priest is incompatible with this behaviour, which has shaken the Church in Australia as it has in the United States".
Retired Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, former head of a Church panel for dealing with the crisis, has estimated the number of Australian victims as being more than 1,000.
The president of the Australian bishops' conference, Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide, said: "The terrible scandal of sexual abuse carried out by some clergy, religious and church personnel and the way these issues were addressed in the past has had deep and lasting consequences.
"Holy Father, I can assure you that we are all making every effort in our response to cases of sexual abuse with compassion and care for victims."