Press Conference Previews Themes of 5-Day Trip

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, APRIL 15, 2008 - Benedict XVI says that it is hard for him to understand how sexually abusive priests could have so betrayed their mission, and promised that the Church will do everything possible to ensure that such a situation never happens again.

The Pope affirmed this today on the Alitalia Boeing 777, “Shepherd One,” that carried him to the United States for an approximate 4 p.m. arrival at Andrews Air Force Base.

Some 70 journalists were on board the flight.

“Really, 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,” the Pontiff said. “If I read the histories of these victims, it’s difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betrayed in this way their mission to give healing, to give the love of God to these children.”

“We are deeply ashamed and will do all possible that this cannot happen in the future.”

The Holy Father affirmed that the Church must select candidates for the priesthood who are healthy and balanced. He said it is more important to have good priests than to have many priests. “We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry,” the Pope added.

The Pontiff responded for about 20 minutes to five questions from the journalists. According to L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's semiofficial daily, the interchange gave an inside look into the themes the Holy Father will discuss while in the United States.

Benedict XVI highlighted the eminently religious and pastoral nature of his trip, and his hopes for his meetings with U.S. Catholics and representatives of Judaism and other religions, and with leaders from other Christian confessions. He also mentioned his visit to the United Nations, which will mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Finally, he analyzed the increasing number of Latin American immigrants in the United States. He emphasized that the Church's challenge is to accompany them with pastoral solicitude, especially aware of the risk their famililes run of being broken apart.


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