Monday April 19, 2010

Sex Abuse Victims in Malta ‘Impressed’ and ‘At Peace’ After Meeting Pope

By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

LA VALETA, Malta, April 19, 2010 ( – Victims of clerical sexual abuse in Malta are expressing strong approval of Pope Benedict XVI following a private meeting with him yesterday, according to the Times of Malta, the Sydney Morning Herald, and other international news outlets.

According to the victims, who say they were abused during their childhood at a Maltese orphanage, the pope listened to their individual stories, thanked them, and cried with them.

Holding back tears, Lawrence Gretch, one of the alleged victims, said that he was “impressed by the humility of the Pope. He was ready to take on the embarrassment caused by others. He was very courageous. He listened to us individually, and prayed and cried with us. He even blessed a cross I had and thanked me for speaking out about the abuse.”

He added that the pope was ”the topmost person who could have listened to me and my story,” and said, ”I will continue my battle, not against the church but against paedophilia.”

“I used to believe the pope is hiding something. When you see the Pope himself in tears, I don’t think he tries to hide something,” Gretch also said.

Joseph Magro told the Times of Malta that the meeting with Benedict had helped him to heal.

“After so many years, today I am at peace with the Church. I am a different person,” he said, with a smile on his face.

”It was a very emotional meeting,” Magro told the Sydney Morning Herald. “We were crying, the bishops were crying and the Pope had tears in his eyes.”

Another victim who only wished to identify himself by his first name, Emanuel, commented that, “‘the Pope was only in Malta for 26 hours and we really appreciated that he gave us half an hour of his time” and said that, “He was as emotional as us,” calling the meeting a “gift from God.”

“The Pope is not to blame for what happened. Neither are the Maltese bishops, who helped us tremendously,” said Emanuel.

He added that the group would “still fight in the courts for justice.”

“A lot of Maltese people think we are only doing this to get money. We don’t want money, we want justice. We don’t want other people in the future to be hurt like we were.”

According to a statement issued by the Vatican, the pope was “deeply moved by their stories and expressed his shame and sorrow over what victims and their families have suffered. ‘He prayed with them and assured them that 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 measures designed to safeguard young people in the future.”