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During his visit to Malta over the weekend, Pope Benedict met with eight clergy sex abuse survivors, men who said they had been molested by priests in a Catholic orphanage on the European island nation. The Associated Press reports the pope prayed with them, expressed his shame and sorrow at the pain they had suffered in the past, and said he would take “effective measures” to protect young people from future abuse.

Catholic News Agency, David Gibson’s Politics Daily column, and Whispers in the Loggia have more on the meeting, though the Vatican has not released any specific information about what “effective measures” might entail.

The Vatican did release the pontiff’s travel schedule for the next five months, however. The upcoming trips are all within Italy or to nearby countries, so presumably his itinerary will remain intact even if Iceland’s volcano continues to wreak havoc on European air travel. The international plans include a trip to Portugal in May, a June visit to Cyprus (I’ll be missing him by a few weeks, but my friends and family will be sure to provide me with some observations), and then the big September trip to England and Scotland. No word yet on whether Benedict will meet with abuse survivors in any of these countries, as he did in Malta.

Check back for more updates, including a Pope Watch about how Benedict marked his fifth anniversary as pontiff today, and share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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