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From New York Times:

ROME — After a week of angry counterattacks by the Roman Catholic Church against its critics over clerical sex abuse, the Vatican changed course on Friday with a conciliatory statement from its spokesman, who implicitly raised the possibility that Pope Benedict XVI would again meet with victims.

The spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, also said that the church should cooperate with civil justice systems in the handling of priests who molest children, as well as following its own law. “Only thus can one think of effectively reconstituting a climate of justice and full faith in the institution of the church,” he said.

The remarks came in a long comment read on Vatican Radio by Father Lombardi, who is also its director. They were striking for their different tone as the church confronts a surge of reports of past sexual abuse by priests across Europe and contentions that the hierarchy failed to act properly against abusers.

Many cardinals and other churchmen in recent days have let loose with almost daily attacks in speeches and interviews on what they consider to be a willful campaign to undermine the church and the pope. They have referred to what they claim to be distorted and unfair news reports. The pope’s official preacher compared criticism of the church to anti-Semitism, although he later apologized, and the dean of the College of Cardinals called it “petty gossip.”

Father Lombardi’s address was titled, “After Holy Week, holding the course,” and began, “The debate on sexual abuses, not only among the clergy, proceeds amid news and comments of various tenor.” How, he asked, should these waters be navigated?

“Above all, by continuing to search for the truth and peace for the offended,” he said. “One of the things which is most striking is that so many interior wounds are coming to light today which arise from many years ago,” he continued. “Many victims are not seeking economic compensation, but an interior help,” he said. The remark contrasted with some church defenders who say victims are often out to sue the church for personal gain.

“We probably must create a deeper experience of events that have so negatively marked the lives of people,” he said. He suggested a way to accomplish that: “In the context of attending to the victims, the pope has written that he is ready for new meetings with them. ” He did not release any details.

Benedict has met with victims of physical and sexual clerical abuse on at least three occasions: in Washington in April 2008; in July of that year in Sydney, Australia; and in Rome a year ago.

Read the full story here.

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