Church apologises to German abuse victims

Monday 22 February 2010 22.11
Pope Benedict XVI - Issue to be discussed
Pope Benedict XVI - Issue to be discussed

The head of the German Bishop's Conference Archbishop, Robert Zollitsch, has made a formal apology to the victims of clerical abuse at some Catholic schools.

He said he would be discussing the matter with Pope Benedict XVI.

A growing number of sexual abuse cases at Jesuit high schools in Germany has come to light over the past month, with over 100 former pupils complaining of abuse.

That has prompted apologies from leading church officials.

While paedophilia scandals have rocked the church in Ireland and the US in recent years, there had been little abuse known in the Pope's native country.

'I apologise to all the victims,' Archbishop Zollitsch told a news conference ahead of a meeting of the bishops in Freiburg.

'This issue is so important to me that I will speak to Pope Benedict about it when I visit him in March.'

He said the bishops would discuss ways to improve prevention of sexual abuse in Catholic institutions and regulations on how to deal with such cases.

Cases of sexual abuse have come to the light in at least seven Catholic schools and institutions across Germany, Der Spiegel magazine said this week.

He said he wanted German state authorities to start investigating cases of sex abuse as soon as possible.

The abuse scandal that was uncovered at Berlin's prestigious Canisius school last month continues to grow, with around 50 former students claiming they were sexually abused in the 1970s and 1980s.

But lawyers for victims have said more than 115 people across the country have since come forward with allegations of abuse by up to 12 different priests and teachers at other Catholic institutions too.

During their conference the bishops will discuss their ‘guidelines for dealing with sexual abuse of children by clergy’ and ‘discuss possible changes,’ the Archbishop said.

Church leaders will also discuss preventative measures, he said.