Benedict’s visit to the UK is already underway, and the coverage began on his flight over, with the pope’s customary habit of answering written questions from journalists — a practice that tends to set the tone for the first day of reporting. As with several of Benedict’s recent state visits, one of those questions dealt with the sex-abuse scandal, where Benedict faulted the Church itself for not acting more quickly to combat it:
Speaking in Italian, the Pope said: “To me it was a great shock that priests were behaving that way.
“Now we are in a moment of repentance, humility and a renewed attempt at sincerity.
“It is hard to understand how this perversion of the priestly ministry was possible.
“It is a great sadness that the church authorities were not sufficiently vigilant and did not sufficiently respond.
“They were not quick and decisive enough in taking the necessary measures.”
While adding that “concern for the victims has to be our first priority,” the pope also stated that a “just penalty” was required for the perpetrators:
“They must be excluded from all possibility of access to young people because we know that this is an illness and goodwill does not work when there is this sickness.
“Therefore we must protect these people from themselves.”
There is also strong speculation that Benedict will meet with abuse victims during his visit (there is currently a large block of time unaccounted for in an otherwise packed itinerary), as he has on five previous occasions.
UPDATE: Whispers in the Loggia links to the full English translation of the press conference. Fast turnaround from the Vatican!