After visiting abuse victims in Malta Pope Benedict made an rare public statement–which the NY Times reports

Pope Benedict XVI pledged Wednesday that the Catholic Church would take action to deal with the widening scandal over sexual abuse by priests, making a rare, direct public comment on the crisis.

During his weekly audience here, Benedict told pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square that he had met with abuse victims during a recent trip to Malta and had “assured them of church action.”

“I shared their suffering and emotionally prayed with them,” the pope said, describing his visit on Sunday with eight Maltese men who claim to have been molested by priests as youths.

After that meeting, the Vatican issued a statement saying that the pope had told the men that the church would investigate the allegations and bring to justice those responsible for the abuse. It would also “implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people in the future,” the statement said.

The pope’s words on Wednesday offered his most forceful promise that the church would confront accusations that it covered up abuse and failed to take criminal action to punish pedophile priests.

Now while this is way too late in the game, suffice it to say that the Vatican Press Corps is getting wiser. Or perhaps the Pope himself went out on a limb and did this on his own–which is what I suspect actually. The Vatican press corps is content with press releases that confine themselves to antiseptic statements, while the Pope himself seemed visibly moved as he spoke of the event in Malta.

We’ll see what his next move is, but methinks the Pope isn’t allowing himself to be “handled” anymore.

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