By Michael Baggot

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 18, 2008 ( – Pope Benedict XVI inspired hope in victims of sexual abuse, according to victims whom the Pope personally addressed Thursday morning.

“He first apologized.  And I didn’t think I needed an apology, I thought I had heard them and they rang hollow,” victim Olan Horne told CNN.

“But there’s a great sense of hope that came here.  There’s a great new bell that has been rung as far as I’m concerned.”

“He seemed to intrinsically understand what we were talking about….It was something he obviously spent time to get to know,” added Horne.

A Vatican communiqué described the meeting, saying that the sex-abuse victims, “prayed with the Holy Father, who afterwards listened to their personal accounts and offered them words of encouragement and hope.”

“His Holiness assured them of his prayers for their intentions, for their families and for all victims of sexual abuse.”

Speaking of the pain brought through the sexual abuse of minors in his Thursday homily at Nation’s Stadium, the Pope said, “No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse. It is important that those who have suffered be given loving pastoral attention. Nor can I adequately describe the damage that has occurred within the community of the Church.”

“Great efforts have already been made to deal honestly and fairly with this tragic situation, and to ensure that children – whom our Lord loves so deeply, and who are our greatest treasure – can grow up in a safe environment. These efforts to protect children must continue.”

The Pope also encouraged his listeners to affirm faithful priests “in the excellent work that they do.”

In his Tuesday address to U.S. Bishops, the Pope noted that the protection of children cannot be reserved to addressing the priestly sex abuse crisis.

“What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today?”

“We need to reassess urgently the values underpinning society, so that a sound moral formation can be offered to young people and adults alike.”

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