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April 18, 2008
Pope Speaks at United Nations after historic meeting with sexual abuse victims
In an unscheduled meeting with 5 victims of sexual abuse from the the Boston Archdiocese, Pope Benedict XVI became only the third ponitiff to speak before the General Assembly of the United Nations where he urged diplomats to seek consensus to solve the world's problems:
The pontiff, addressing the U.N. General Assembly on his first papal trip to the U.S., said the organization's work is vital. But it was the surprise meeting with sexual abuse victims that has turned into the emotional moment of the Pope's trip to the United States:
But he raised concerns that power is concentrated in just a handful of nations. "Multilateral consensus," he said, speaking in French, "continues to be in crisis because it is still subordinated to the decisions of a small number."
The world's problems call for collective interventions by the international community, he said.
The private session, described last night by several people who were present, was punctuated by frequent emotion. Many of the participants cried. They all prayed. How many American Catholics may have been abused over the years? A study done for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops estimates that between 1950 and 2002 almost 5,000 priests abused children resulting in more than 10,000 victims.
And one by one, each of the victims spoke alone with the pope, holding his hands, whispering in his ears, and telling him their stories of wounded bodies and broken faith. Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, who pushed for the meeting after the pope decided not to include Boston in his US itinerary, gave the pope an oversize hand-sewn book made of color-washed paper in which a calligrapher had written the names of nearly 1,500 men and women from the Boston area who have reported being sexually abused by priests over the last six decades.
"I asked him to forgive me for hating his church and hating him," said Olan Horne, 48, of Lowell, who gave the pope a picture of himself as a 9-year-old boy, just before the Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham started molesting him. "He said, 'My English isn't good, but I want you to know that I can understand you, and I think I can understand your sorrow.' "