Pope Benedict Met With Eight Alleged Victims of Sexual Abuse in Malta

He met with eight men who allege sexual abuse as orphans in Maltese institute.

ByABC News
April 18, 2010, 6:50 PM

April 18, 2010 — -- In the first gesture of its kind since fresh accusations of sexual abuse by priests emerged, Pope Benedict XVI met with purported abuse victims today in the deeply Catholic nation of Malta.

The meeting with eight men who say they were abused by priests when they were children in a Maltese orphanage lasted approximately 35 minutes and was held away from the glare of the media. It was held in the building where the pope stayed while in Malta and took place following a large public Sunday mass.

Lawrence Grech, 37, was among the group and said it was an emotional moment when he shared his painful story with the Holy Father.

"I said, 'Pope, you pray for me, and I hope you feel the emptiness which another priest like you took from me for at least 25 years, because I lost faith,'" Grech said.

Grech is among 10 victims who filed criminal complaints against four priests of the orphanage seven years ago. The proceedings are ongoing, and three of the accused priests are still working in Malta.

The Vatican issued a statement following the meeting, saying, "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 measure designed to safeguard young people in the future."

Critics, including groups that represent abuse victims, say the church's apologies cannot replace criminal prosecutions of predatory priests.

"What the pope is doing is nothing more than window dressing," said Barbara Blaine, founder of SNAP, or the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "At this time he really hasn't taken any decisive action that protects children in the church across the globe. We don't understand why he won't do this, except that it seems as though he wants to continue to protect the reputation of the church and these predator priests, rather than the innocence of the children."