The Deacon's Bench

Details are sketchy, but I expect we’ll learn more soon.

From the BBC bulletin:

Pope Benedict XVI has met alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests in Malta, saying the Church will do all in its power to punish abusers.

The Pope also “expressed his shame and sorrow over what victims and their families have suffered”, a Vatican statement said.

The meeting took place at the end of the pontiff’s visit to Malta.

Three priests are accused of sexually abusing orphan children on Malta in the 1980s and 1990s.

The AP report ads:

It was the first time Benedict had met with abuse victims since the worldwide clerical abuse scandal engulfed the Vatican earlier this year.

“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,” a Vatican statement said.

Victims’ advocacy groups have demanded that the Vatican take concrete steps to protect children and remove abusive priests, saying the pope’s expressions to date of solidarity and shame are meaningless unless actual action is taken.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: John Allen has an excellent write-up about the meeting:

One of the eight victims of sexual abuse who met Pope Benedict XVI today in Malta described the encounter as “very emotional,” saying most of those present were crying, and even the pope had “tears in his eyes.”

“I made peace with the church,” said Joseph Magro, one of the victims who met the pope.

Magro has been among the most outspoken of ten Maltese men who recently came forward to say they were abused by Catholic priests at a church-run orphanage in the 1980s and 1990s. The revelations shocked this tiny island nation, in part because another of the victims linked his abuse in the orphanage to a horrific murder he committed in 1991, in which he killed a homosexual man with a hammer and then cut his body into pieces with a broken bottle.

Another victim who met the pope, who asked to be described as “Immanuel,” said that the victims “will continue the fight for justice,” and insisted that they do not want money from the Catholic church.

This was Pope Benedict’s third meeting with victims, after previous encounters in the United States in April 2008 and Australia later that same year.

In a briefing today for reporters, the Vatican spokesperson, Fr. Federico Lombardi, described the meeting as “intense” but “serene.” The eight victims in the meeting were all male, he said.

Read on for more.

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