Pope Benedict has begged forgiveness from God and victims of child sexual abuse by priests and vowed that the Catholic Church would do everything in its power to ensure that it never happens again.Benedict made his comments, some of his clearest ever about the scandal that has swept the Church around the world, during a homily in St Peter's Square to conclude the Roman Catholic Church's "Year of the Priest" celebrations. Wearing white and gold vestments as he spoke to some 15,000 priests, Benedict said the year that was to have celebrated the priesthood had been marred because "the sins of priests came to light, particularly the abuse of the little ones." Benedict himself has been accused of turning a blind eye. The latest Catholic sex abuse scandals are confronting Pope Benedict with what one Catholic newspaper calls the "largest institutional crisis in centuries." There are allegations that Pope Benedict, who was known as Cardinal Josef Ratzinger until being named pontiff, either covered up for or was indifferent to allegations of abuse by priests under his authority. Hundreds of cases of sexual and physical abuse of youths by priests in recent decades have come to light in Europe and the United States as investigations encourage long-silent victims to finally go public with their complaints.
The scandal of sex abuse by Catholic priests has shaken lay people, priests and bishops alike. The scandal has hit Catholic communities in the United States, Ireland, Belgium and Germany particularly hard. Child abuse scandals in the United States about eight years ago wreaked havoc on the reputation and finances of the U.S. Catholic Church, which paid some $2 billion in settlements and several dioceses declared bankruptcy. As the hierarchy works to address the problems of pedophilia and coverups, many are demanding accountability and change.