Page last updated at 00:09 GMT, Monday, 21 July 2008 01:09 UK

Pope meets clergy abuse victims

Pope Benedict in Sydney, 20/07
Pope Benedict was in Australia for the Church's World Youth Day

Pope Benedict XVI has met victims of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy at the end of his visit to Australia, the Vatican has said.

Papal spokesman Father Frederico Lombardi said the Pope wanted to show his concern for those who had suffered.

But victims' group Broken Rites claimed that the Pope had not met victims with ongoing grievances against the Church.

The meeting came two days after the pontiff apologised for what he termed the "evil" of sex abuse by clergymen.

'Respect and spirituality'

"With regard to abuses by members of the clergy, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on Monday morning celebrated Mass with a group of representatives of victims of sexual abuse," Father Lombardi said.

Nick Bryant
How do you measure the success of an event like Catholic World Youth Day?
The BBC's Nick Bryant

"The Pope listened to their stories and consoled them. He assured them of his spiritual proximity and proposed to continue to pray for them, for their families and for all victims."

The 81-year-old pontiff met two male and two female victims of abuse in a chapel at St Mary's Cathedral House in Sydney.

After Mass he spoke to each of the victims in an atmosphere of "respect, spirituality and of intense emotions", said Father Lombardi.

But Broken Rites, the main victims' group, was not consulted about the Pope's unscheduled meeting with victims, says the BBC's Nick Bryant, in Sydney.

Spokesman Chris MacIsaac told our correspondent the group felt the Pope's gesture "did not show reconciliation".

Some victims have accused the Catholic Church in Australia of stalling over compensation payouts and trying to cover up some cases of abuse.

The meeting brought to a close the Pope's nine-day visit to Australia for the Catholic Church's World Youth Day.

More than 200,000 young people attended the final Mass of the event, held at a racecourse in Sydney on Sunday.

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