, VATICAN CITY, Oct 18 – Pope John Paul II expressed "deep pain" and regret for the "destruction" caused by priests\’ child abuse Monday, while insisting on the rule of clergy celibacy.
In a letter addressed to trainee priests, the pope said that it had emerged "recently" that "priests have deformed their ministry by the sexual abuse of children and young people."
"Instead of leading people towards a mature humanity and setting an example they have caused, through their abuses, destruction for which we feel deep pain and deep regret," he added.
Acknowledging that in the face of such abuse the question might be asked whether "a life of celibacy is reasonable", the pope said that abuses "cannot discredit the priestly mission, which remains great and pure."
He held up as examples "priests filled with faith who bear witness that in a life of celibacy one can attain a true, pure and mature humanity."
But he warned the abuse scandals should make would-be priests to be more vigilant, and to ask themselves carefully about their vocation.
Paedophile priest scandals and allegations of high-level cover-ups that swept Australia and the United States in 2004 have surged again since last year and rocked the Roman Catholic Church.
The new wave of scandals began in Ireland last November with revelations of widespread abuse, in many cases stretching back decades, then spread to the pope\’s native Germany, Belgium, Austria, United States, Brazil and other countries.
The pope himself has faced allegations that, as archbishop of Munich and later as the head of a powerful Vatican body, he helped to protect predator priests.
On his visit to Britain last month he admitted the Church had failed to act quickly enough to stamp out the menace.
But groups of abuse sufferers complain that his expressions of sorrow are not enough to make amends.