Pope Benedict XVI has followed his predecessor Blessed John Paul II in working for “truth and transparency” on priestly abuse and other topics, the Holy See Press Office director said on March 24.
Pope Benedict XVI “has truly done much to fight against these problems and put fundamental measures in place,” Fr. Federico Lombardi told journalists during a press conference at the Hotsson Hotel in León, where he has been briefing journalists during the Pope's visit to Mexico.
“It’s unjust to consider Pope Benedict XVI as someone who has worked against truth and transparency,” he said during the evening press conference.
Fr. Lombardi's comments came in response to a journalist's question about the possibility of a Papal meeting with victims of organized crime, a possibility that was neither confirmed nor denied.
It was asked why the Pope might choose to meet with them rather than with victims of sexual abuse.
Regarding the topic of abuse by priests, the Vatican spokesman said that Pope Benedict and Bl. John Paul II “never covered up these topics.” Rather, he said, “the opposite is true.”
The director of the Holy See Press Office denied that Bl. John Paul II had any knowledge about the crimes of Marcial Maciel, the Mexican priest who founded the Legionaries of Christ.
He noted that the topic was investigated during Pope John Paul II's beatification process, and said there was a “solemn declaration” from Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, declaring that the Pope “did not know of Maciel’s secret life.”
In regard to Pope Benedict's current visit to Mexico, Fr. Lombardi explained why there was no plan for a visit with abuse victims.
Such a meeting, he said, requires the involvement of the Church hierarchy in situations where a process of reconciliation is already underway.
A request for such a meeting must also be made in a private and reserved way – which has not been the case in Mexico.
“The central aim of the Pope’s visit to Mexico is his encounter with the Mexican people who desired to see him, and in order to do that, there is a limited amount of time,” the Vatican spokesman said.
There is “no premise for a meeting,” in cases where aggressive demands are made by those who “do not want to initiate a profound dialogue.”
Pope Benedict's concern for children, he said, had been demonstrated consistently in his words and actions – most recently by his call, during that evening's speech at the Plaza de Paz, for all Mexicans to care for children and protect them.