Since the Vatican the journey of Pope Benedict XVI. to Germany, there was speculation about a possible meeting with abuse victims. Under utmost discretion it took place now – before not announced -. After a long day, the pope met the three men and two women in Erfurt on Friday evening.
The place for the meeting was well chosen: The Erfurt seminary is widely cordoned off, because here the pope stays overnight – and here he met with the group of victims who had been sexually abused by priests and church employees.
Following the statement subsequently released by the Vatican, Benedict XVI expressed his. "moved and shaken" by the plight of the victims of abuse. He had expressed his "deepest sympathy and regret" for all that had been done to them and their families. In addition, he had ared that those responsible in the church were concerned with the processing of all abuse crimes. They sought to "promote effective measures to protect children and young people".
With this, the Pope continued a series of encounters in Erfurt that began three years ago in the USA. In April 2008, a secret meeting with victims took place at the nunciature in Washington. Three months later, at the World Youth Day in Sydney, the pope invited some victims to the early mass shortly before the return journey. The Vatican journalists were already on the bus to the airport.
There was another meeting in Malta in April of last year. There has also been sexual abuse by clergy in the state considered one of the most Catholic in the world.
Further north, in Germany and Ireland, the storm of indignation over outrages by priests had just reached its peak at that time.
How close Benedict XVI. such meetings go, was shown in September 2010 in London. Participants reported the pope had tears in his eyes as he apologized to those affected.
In addition, the pope also sent messages during each of his trips. During his trip to the USA, he presented the threefold approach to abuse in the Church: zero tolerance, help for victims, prevention in priestly training and pastoral care. In Australia, for the first time as head, he said "sorry": "I am very sorry for the pain and suffering that the victims have endured." A small sentence, it was not in the speech script distributed in advance.
In Portugal in May 2010, he noted "that the greatest persecution of the Church" ultimately arises "from sin within the Church". On his way to the UK, he spoke almost casually about victims being entitled to material assistance.
Never before has Benedict XVI. criticized so drastically in their own ranks as on the subject of abuse. He received applause from many.
But there was also resentment: for example, from victims' representatives who expected something more from a meeting with the pope than a joint prayer. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi always stresses that the rather symbolic meetings are primarily about a "hint" in which direction the local church should go in dealing with the scandal. The coming weeks will show how this hint is taken by the church in Germany.