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Maltese alleged abuse victims ask to meet Pope

VALLETTA (Reuters) - Ten Maltese men, who have taken three priests to court for alleged child abuse, on Monday requested a private meeting with Pope Benedict XVI when he visits Malta during the coming weekend.

Lawrence Grech of Malta, a victim of church child abuse, attends a news conference addressed by several other victims in St Julian's, outside Valletta, April 12, 2010. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

So far, the pope has not spoken out directly on the new wave of sexual abuse allegations that is hounding the Church in a number of coutries, including the United Satates, Italy and his native Germany.

There has been a high incidence of allegations of abuse on the Mediterranean island of Malta, where 45 cases have been reported involving the clergy going back to the 1970s.

“We are asking to meet the Pope for a few minutes to help us heal and to overcome this trauma,” Lawrence Grech, a spokesman for the ten men, told a press conference.

He said the victims, who were resident in a home for children when the alleged abuse took place, were seeking justice, not financial compensation.

Archbishop Paul Cremona, the head of the Maltese Church, has agreed to meet the men, in response to their request.

Court proceedings in the cases related to the ten men were launched seven years ago and are still pending. The accused priests have been barred from performing priestly duties in public.

Billboards publicising the papal visit were vandalised last week, by people scribbling images related to paedophilia.

The Maltese Curia in a statement on Monday said that in the 11 years since it appointed a special Response Team 45 child abuse cases involving Maltese clergy had been reported, of which 19 were found to have had no basis.

It said there was a basis in the allegations made against 13 priests, while another 13 cases were pending.

“The Church takes these cases seriously...for the Church, even one such case is one too many,” the Curia said.

Reporting by Christopher Scicluna; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore