Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday he was "deeply ashamed" of the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic church and will work to make sure pedophiles don't become priests.
Benedict was answering questions submitted in advance by reporters aboard a special Alitalia airliner as he was flying from Rome to Washington to begin his first papal pilgrimage to the United States.
"It is a great suffering for the Church in the United States and for the Church in general and for me personally that this could happen," Benedict said. "It is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betray in this way their mission ... to these children."
"I am deeply ashamed and we will do what is possible so this cannot happen again in the future," the pope said.
Benedict pledged that pedophiles would not be priests in the Roman Catholic church.
"We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry," Benedict said in English. "It is more important to have good priests than many priests. We will do everything possible to heal this wound."
Benedict's pilgrimage was the first trip by a pontiff to the United States since the scandal involving priests sexually abusing young people rocked U.S. dioceses and triggered lawsuits that have cost the Church hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements.
Pedophilia is "absolutely incompatible" with the priesthood," Benedict said.
Vatican officials selected four questions to be read by the journalists to the pontiff aboard the plane.
Benedict described his pilgrimage as a journey to meet a "great people and a great Church." He spoke about the American model of religious values within a system of separation of church and state.
From a presidential welcome, to two Masses at baseball stadiums, to a stop for prayer at ground zero in New York, Benedict will get a heavy dose of the American experience.
President Bush planned to make the unusual gesture of greeting him at Andrews Air Force Base — the first time the president has greeted a foreign leader there.
The pope said he will discuss immigration with Bush, including the difficulties of families who are separated by immigration.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Aboard the Papal Plane
From AP Breaking News: