July 20, 2008 / 10:55 PM / 11 years ago

Pope meets Australian victims of sexual abuse

Pope Benedict XVI (L) waves after he led the final World Youth Day mass at Randwick horse racing track in Sydney July 20, 2008. REUTERS/Mick Tsikas

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict met victims of sexual abuse by the clergy in Australia on Monday at a private mass, an unscheduled meeting that followed his public apology at the weekend to all Australian victims.

“A group of victims attended a papal private mass this morning,” the Vatican said in a statement. “With this fatherly gesture the Holy Father wanted to once again show his concern for all those who had suffered sexual abuse.”

The pontiff issued the public apology on Saturday, on the eve of his World Youth Day open-air mass in Sydney. There have been 107 convictions for sexual abuse in the Catholic church in Australia but victims groups say there may be thousands of cases.

Sexual abuse by Catholic clergy has overshadowed the pope’s visit to Sydney, with the Church reopening a 25-year-old abuse case in Australia only days before the pontiff arrived.

Reporting by Michael Perry, Editing by Jonathan Standing and Mark Bendeich

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