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Pope calls on adults to protect children as abuse row rages

Sunday March 25 2012

By AFP

GUANAJUATO, Mexico, Sunday

Pope Benedict XVI called on Sunday on adults to “protect and to care for children” and sent a message to minors suffering from violence in a speech in the central Mexican city of Guanajuato.

Amid complaints from sexual abuse victims that the pope would not meet them in Mexico, Benedict referred to the mistreatment of children, without specifically mentioning Catholic priest paedophilia scandals of recent decades.

“I wish to lift up my voice, inviting everyone to protect and to care for children, so that nothing may extinguish their smile, but that they may live in peace and look to the future with confidence,” the pope said before hundreds of cheering children from the balcony of the ornate Casa Del Conde Rul, where he earlier met with President Felipe Calderon.

In his first public event on his second day in Mexico, the pope made a special mention of Mexican children “who have to bear the burden of suffering, abandonment, violence or hunger.”

Thousands of children have been orphaned by Mexico’s drug violence — which has left some 50,000 dead since the government started a military crackdown on organized crime in late 2006.

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Meanwhile, victims of sexual abuse accused the Vatican yesterday of protecting a notorious Mexican priest for decades, and expressed frustration that Pope Benedict XVI would not meet them in Mexico.

A group including alleged victims of abuse by Marcial Maciel, the late founder of the influential Legion of Christ religious order, presented a book that they say proves that Vatican officials ignored crimes committed by Maciel.

“The opportunity to accept this truth passed through your hands,” read a statement presented to journalists by Jose Barba, a former Legionary and alleged victim, during a video transmission from Mexico to the central city of Leon, where the pope is staying.