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Pope to see abuse victims in private

Insults daubed on pontiff's Bavaria home

13 April, 13:43
Pope to see abuse victims in private (ANSA) - Vatican City, April 13 - Pope Benedict XVI will meet with victims of sexual abuse by priests, but away from the media spotlight, the Vatican said Tuesday.

Illustrating the pope's trip to Malta next weekend, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said he would see victims "in a climate of prayer and reflection, not under media pressure".

Benedict has announced a new strategy to weed out paedophile priests, report cases straight to the police, defrock the most serious abusers immediately and provide more support for victims.

The pope has come under increasing pressure amid allegations of cover-ups, which the Vatican denies.

But some Vatican observers say the pope, in his previous role as doctrinal enforcer, did more than anyone to stem rising paedophile scandals in the face of resistance inside the Vatican.

Shortly before his election in 2005, Benedict vowed to rid the Catholic Church of what he called "filth".

But as previous head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith from 1981 to 2005, the pope has been accused of failing to defrock in the late 1990s a priest who abused 200 deaf boys in Wisconsin from 1950-74 and not responding, for the good of the Church, to an admitted Oakland paedophile's own request to leave the Church.

In an editorial earlier this week in the New York Times, which has broken several alleged cover-up stories, conservative commentator Ross Douthat said Ratzinger was prevented from taking action against Legionaries of Christ founder and "sexually voracious sociopath" Marcial Maciel until the death of pope John Paul II, a friend and sponsor of the charismatic Mexican priest.

Maciel died in 2008 in disgrace after decades of abuse in which he also fathered several children. The scandals which have most recently hit Ireland, Austria, Netherlands, Norway, Germany and Italy have spurred criticism of the Church and raised questions about priestly sexuality.

In the latest blast, responding to Vatican No.2 Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone who linked paedophilia to homosexuality, Italian gay group Arcigay urged Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, to remove "all the gay priests and nuns in the Church including those in the Roman Curia.

Also on Tuesday, a Bavarian paper reported that obscene phrases were found daubed on the house in Bavaria where the pope was born.

The paper, Augsburger Allgemeine, said the insults, of a sexual nature, were "so offensive" that it viewed them as unpublishable.

Benedict was born in the small town of Marktl am Inn on April 16, 1927.

The Vatican, which before switching to a more proactive strategy had claimed a media 'smear' campaign, has raised concerns about a backlash from the scandal coverage.

Vatican Radio last week said "there are "those who fear that the media campaign of anti-Catholic hate may degenerate," citing among "the first worrying signs" an attack by a mentally unstable man on a German bishop; anti-Catholic slogans daubed on a church near Viterbo north of Rome; and attempts by "several groups and individuals" to disrupt Easter services across Europe.

The broadcaster recalled that the first Christians were accused of terrible crimes and lynched.

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