July 21st, 2008 08:34 EST
World Youth Day ends with children sexually abused by priests
Pope Benedict has met privately with Australians who were sexually abused as children by priests. The pontiff held prayers and spoke with them Monday at the conclusion of a nine-day visit for World Youth Day, an international Catholic festival.
The issue of abusive clergy in large part overshadowed the pope`s visit to Australia for World Youth Day.
After earlier apologizing for the "evil" perpetrated by pedophile priests, the pope met a small group of victims - two men and two women chosen by church officials - at a mass in Sydney.
The Vatican said in a statement that Pope Benedict had "listened to their stories and offered them consolation."
Support groups for other victims dismissed the meeting as a publicity stunt.
Anthony Foster, whose daughters were raped by a priest, has expressed his disappointment:
"It`s been done in a very secretive, underhanded way that shows no care or compassion for us or a great body of victims," he said.
Despite the abuse controversy, the pope says Sydney`s World Youth Day has been a success...
"World Youth Day has shown us that the Church can rejoice in the young people of today and be filled with hope for the world of tomorrow," he said. "Dear friends, as I depart from Sydney I ask God to look down lovingly on this city, this country and all its inhabitants."
During his visit, the pontiff not only addressed the issue of sexual abuse by the clergy, but spoke of his concerns for the environment and called on young people to save the world from greed and `insatiable` consumerism.
Catholic leaders in Australia hope that World Youth Day in Sydney will herald the start of a religious revival in a country considered in a recent German study to be one of the most godless in the western world.
Over 170 nations were represented at the festival, attracting more visitors to Sydney than the 2000 Olympic Games.
The next World Youth Day will be held in the Spanish capital, Madrid, in 2011.