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Pope's Web apology over sex abuse

VATICAN CITY -- Pope John Paul II, in his first message sent to the world via the Internet, has apologised to victims of sexual abuse by priests and other clergy.

The apology came in a document that summed up the themes of a synod of bishops from Oceania held in the Vatican in 1998.

"Sexual abuse by some clergy and religious has caused great suffering and spiritual harm to the victims," the pope said in the document.

For the first time in his 23-year papacy, the pope sent the document by e-mail to churches around the world.

"It (sexual abuse) has been very damaging in the life of the church and has become an obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel," the pope said.

Full text: The papal document 

The document ranged from subjects such as evangelisation and aboriginals, who he said had been subjected to "shameful injustices" by some members of the church in the past.

"Sexual abuse within the church is a profound contradiction of the teaching and witness of Jesus Christ," the pope said.

"The synod fathers wished to apologise unreservedly to the victims for the pain and disillusionment caused to them."

Punishment for priests

He said the church in Oceania, which includes Australia, New Zealand and a host of island states dotted over the Pacific Ocean, was seeking what he called "open and just" procedures to respond to complaints.

He said the church was "unequivocally committed to compassionate and effective care for the victims, their families, the whole community and the offenders themselves."

Last March, the National Catholic Reporter (NCR), a U.S.-based Catholic weekly, ran a series of stories on internal reports in the Vatican about the sexual abuse of nuns and other women by priests and bishops around the world.

The Vatican acknowledged that the problem existed.

The internal reports said some priests and missionaries had forced nuns to have sex with them, and had in some cases committed rape and forced the victims to have abortions.

The reports cited cases in 23 countries, including the United States, the Philippines, Ireland and Papua New Guinea.

In July, about 150 Catholics protested at the Vatican's United Nations mission, demanding an independent commission to investigate alleged violence against nuns by priests.

In a petition to the pope they called for punishment for priests who engaged in violence and reparations to nuns who were vicitms.


• The Vatican
• The National Catholic Reporter

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