In an unscheduled appointment, Pope Benedict met five victims of clerical sexual abuse yesterday afternoon at the Vatican's embassy in Washington. The group, who were from the Archdiocese of Boston prayed with the Holy Father in the embassy chapel. Vatican spokesman Fr Frederico Lombardi, said Pope Benedict and Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley met the group for about 25 minutes, "offering them encouragement and hope." "They prayer together. Also each of them had their own individual time with the Holy Father. Some were in tears," Fr Lombardi said. Cardinal O'Malley gave the Pope a notebook containing the names of more than 1,000 victims of abuse from the Boston Archdiocese. More than 4,000 priests have been accused of molesting minors in the US since 1950. The church has paid out more than two billion dollars in compensation in the last six years. Six dioceses have been forced into bankruptcy because of abuse costs. Pope Benedict was only expected to address the issue once during his six-day visit, at a Mass with priests in New York on Saturday. Instead he has raised the subject repeatedly, beginning with a press conference on his flight to the US. On Wednesday he told bishops the problem had sometimes been "very badly handled". He said it was their God-given duty to heal the wounds caused by abuse. Yesterday he asked each parishioner at his first Mass in the National Park to "do what you can to foster healing and reconciliation, and to assist those who have been hurt.
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