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Germany: archbishop apologises for child abuse by priests

Archbishop  Zollitsch

Archbishop Zollitsch

The head of the German Bishops Conference has issued a formal apology to victims of  child abuse by priests. Archbishop Robert Zollitsch made the statement at a news conference following a 45 minute private meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, who encouraged him to press ahead with tough new measures to prevent further incidents.

Archbishop Zollitsch said his church would investigate numerous allegations of abuse in Catholic institutions, as well as offering counselling to victims. He said: "The German bishops are dismayed by what has happened and the acts of violence against children. A few weeks ago I asked forgiveness from the victims, something which I must repeat today in Rome."

The Archbishop said he had briefed Pope Benedict about the situation in Germany, where more than 100 reports have emerged of abuse at Catholic institutions.  One is  linked to the Regensburg choir, which was  run by the Pope's older brother, Fr George Ratzinger,  from 1964 to 1994.

Zollitsch said: "With great shock, keen interest and deep sadness, the Holy Father took note of what I had to say."  He  added that  they had not discussed the Regensburg choir or Fr George Ratzinger.

Because the German church still collecting information about the total number of abuse cases, Zollitsch said it was to early to discuss compensation for victims.