U.S. News

Pope aims to heal sex abuse wounds on U.S. trip

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict will seek to heal wounds from a sexual abuse scandal that shook the Catholic Church in the United States, during his first trip there as pontiff next week, the Vatican’s number two said.

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he arrives to lead his general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican April 9, 2008. REUTERS/Max Rossi

“The pope will talk about it -- talk about it in a specific way,” Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, told Fox News in an interview to be broadcast on Wednesday.

“The pope, along with the Church’s priests, will naturally seek the path toward healing and toward reconciliation.”

The sexual abuse scandal started in Boston in 2002, when Catholic leaders were discovered to have moved priests who abused minors to new parishes instead of defrocking or reporting them to police.

The scandal later spread to almost every U.S. Catholic diocese.

Last July the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to pay $660 million to 500 victims of sexual abuse dating back as far as the 1940s.

The German-born pope, who visits Washington, New York and will address the United Nations during the April 15-20 trip, will raise the sexual abuse of minors in an address at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on April 17, Bertone said.

Before his election as pontiff in 2005, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger went out on a limb to decry the “filth” in the Church.

He also has taken a tougher stand on sexual abuse in the Church as pontiff than his predecessor, John Paul II, who was old and frail when the scandals broke.

Two years ago, Benedict disciplined Rev. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the conservative Legionaries of Christ, who had been accused of sexually abusing boys decades ago. He died in January aged 87.

Bertone said the sexual abuse scandal, which has also hit the Church in Ireland and other countries, should not force the Church to relinquish its role in education.

“We must not renounce action in education, we must not renounce the schools, we must not renounce the youth centers,” he said.

Writing by Phil Stewart; Editing by Jon Boyle