VATICAN CITY — The head of Germany's Catholic Church apologized to victims of child abuse by priests and said after meeting Pope Benedict on Friday the pontiff encouraged him to press ahead with tackling the problem.
Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, head of the German Bishops' Conference, said the German Church was taking steps to investigate numerous allegations of abuse in Catholic institutions, to counsel victims and to prevent a recurrence.
"The German bishops are dismayed by what has happened and the acts of violence against children," Zollitsch said after the 45-minute private audience. "A few weeks ago I asked forgiveness from the victims, something which I must repeat today in Rome."
Zollitsch said he had briefed Benedict about the situation in Germany, where more than 100 reports have emerged of abuse at Catholic institutions, including one linked to the prestigious Regensburg choir run by the Pope's brother from 1964-1994.
"With great shock, keen interest and deep sadness, the Holy Father took note of what I had to say," Zollitsch told a news conference, adding that he had not specifically discussed the Regensburg choir with the pope.
"I informed the Holy Father of the measures which we are adopting and I am grateful to him for encouraging me to continue with the adoption of these measures in a decisive and courageous manner," he said. "We want to bring the truth to light."
Zollitsch, the head of Germany's 26 million Catholics, noted the German child abuse scandal was not limited to the Church alone. He thanked the German government for convening a round-table on the issue for April 23 grouping Catholic and Protestant representatives, civil groups, teachers and victims.