ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday he was “deeply ashamed” of the clergy sexual abuse scandal that stained the Catholic church and will work to make sure pedophiles don’t become priests.
Benedict was answering questions that were 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.
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“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, speaking 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 sex abuse scandal rocked U.S. dioceses in the early 2000s and triggered lawsuits that have cost the church hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements.