Parents of sex abuse victims plan to confront pope

July 16, 2008 12:00 am

, SYDNEY, July 16 – The scandal over sex abuse by priests which has partly overshadowed Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to intensified Wednesday after the parents of two victims said they planned to confront him.

The pope has said he will apologise to victims of predatory priests during his visit to for World Youth Day this week, which has attracted an estimated 215,000 pilgrims from around the world.

But the father of two girls abused by a Melbourne priest, one of whom committed suicide, said he and his wife would travel back to from Europe for a confrontation.

"I’ll accept an apology if the pope will wholeheartedly embrace the notion of begging forgiveness from victims and supporting them in every way possible and putting the full resources behind that support so they can have a reasonable life," Anthony Foster told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Foster said he planned to make a public statement when he arrived and would demand a response from the pope and the head of the Roman Catholic Church in , Cardinal George Pell.

"I should not have to try to see them. They should be coming to us to beg our forgiveness," he said.

Foster’s daughter Emma committed suicide this year aged 26, after struggling to deal with abuse by a priest while she was at primary school.

Her sister Katie was also abused and turned to alcohol in her teens before being involved in a motor accident which left her brain-damaged.

The priest involved, Father Kevin O’Donnell, died in 1997 after serving time in jail for multiple sex offences but the Fosters had to fight an eight-year legal battle for compensation from the church for the abuse.

World Youth Day coordinator Bishop Anthony Fisher told journalists Wednesday he was not aware of any invitation to Pell to meet the Fosters when they return to this week and was unsure if there would be a meeting.

"I would say the cardinal has many times in the past offered to meet the victims of sexual abuse," he said.

"If that can be constructive, if there can be a genuine conversation I suspect again he is a generous and compassionate man and he will do what he can to heal these victims as any others."

Pell last week ordered an independent, church-appointed panel to investigate claims he had tried to cover up sexual abuse allegations in 2003.

Fisher said most people were focusing on the positive aspects of World Youth Day "rather than dwelling crankily as a few people are doing on old wounds".

The pope made a historic apology for the actions of child-abusing clergy in April during a visit to the , where the church also faces a long-running sex scandal.


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