Pope meets German victims of sexual abuse by priests

image captionThe Pope officiated at a vespers service in eastern Germany, one of 18 services during his visit

Pope Benedict XVI has met German victims of sexual abuse by priests, expressing "deep compassion and regret" at their suffering.

The Pope met five victims for half an hour, on the second day of his four-day state visit to his native Germany.

A statement from the Vatican said he was "moved and deeply shaken".

The pontiff assured the victims that church officials were "seriously concerned" about dealing with crimes of abuse.

He also said the Church was "committed to the promotion of effective measures for the protection of children and young people".

Hundreds abused

A Vatican spokesman said Pope Benedict met, "in calm circumstances", two women and three men, who had come from different parts of Germany.

Church leaders said they hoped the Pope's meeting with the victims would help revive faith in the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, which had been badly shaken by last year's revelations of abuse.

Hundreds of people came forward to say they were abused as minors between the 1950s and 1980s, amid suspicions that the crimes were concealed.

There have now been allegations of abuse in 18 of Germany's 27 Roman Catholic dioceses.

In 2010, more than 181,000 Germans deserted the Church, at least in part in reaction to the abuse scandal.

The top Catholic archbishop in Germany, Robert Zollitsch, admitted when the crisis broke that the institution had "failed" in its response.

The Pope has held similar meetings on trips to the United States, Australia, Malta and the UK.

All those countries have been affected by the sex abuse scandal that has plagued the Roman Catholic Church over the past decades.

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