VATICAN CITY Ã¢â‚¬â€ Pope Benedict XVI on Friday begged for forgiveness for the paedophile priest scandals rocking the Roman Catholic in his clearest apology yet for the scourge.
At a mass with some 15,000 priests marking the end of the Roman Catholic Church’s Year for Priests, the pontiff pledged to “do everything possible” to stop the cases.
“And so it happened that, in this very year of joy for the sacrament of the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light, particularly the abuse of the little ones,” Benedict said in a sun-drenched St Peter’s Square.
“We … insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again,” he said before the white-clad priests from around the world.
“In admitting men to priestly ministry and in their formation we will do everything we can to weigh the authenticity of their vocation and make every effort to accompany priests along their journey,” Benedict vowed.
An activist with a US-based support group for victims of predator priests rejected the apology as “disappointing and dangerous.”
“He spoke about seminary formation and begging survivors for forgiveness,” said Joelle Casteix of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. “That does nothing to keep kids safe right now,” she told AFP.
SNAP demands a “zero toleranace policy to ensure that anyone who abuses a child or covers up for that abuse is immediately turned over to secular authorities,” Casteix said.
Paedophile priest scandals and allegations of high-level cover-ups have surged again since last year and rocked the Catholic church in Europe and the United States.
With paedophilia, “the priesthood, whose task is to manifest God?s concern for our good, turns into its very opposite,” lamented the 83-year-old pope, wearing white and gold vestments.
The pontiff has however repeatedly rejected any reconsideration of the centuries-old rule of celibacy for Catholic priests.
Priestly celibacy is “an act of faith and fidelity” towards God and a way to anticipate on earth the pureness of the afterlife, the pope said at a vigil here on Thursday.
Some senior Catholic prelates and intellectuals have called for a new discussion of the issue when considering the possible causes of the sex abuse scandal.
To mark the end of the Year for Priests, the Italian Church on Tuesday thanked clergy for their dedication while under pressure from “sweeping accusations” of child sex abuse that “have caused bitterness and pain and cast suspicions on everyone.”
The pope himself has faced allegations that, as archbishop of Munich and later as the Vatican’s chief morals enforcer, he helped to protect predator priests.
Late last year, Ireland was rocked by two successive reports revealing widespread abuse mainly of boys by priests going back decades, coupled with the Church hierarchy’s complicity in covering it up.
The pope issued a pastoral letter to Irish Catholics in March expressing shame and remorse for the revelations of abuse committed by those entrusted with the care of young people in Ireland, in cases stretching back decades.
The scandals snowballed with revelations in the pope’s native Germany, Belgium, Austria, United States, Brazil and other countries.
The pope has condemned paedophile priests several times, and met with abuse victims in Australia, the United States and Malta.