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Paedophilia scandals weigh on body to elect next pope

Published on Feb 20, 2013 10:34 AM
Vatican Police guards (right), patrol in front of the Sanctae Marthae building at the Vatican, Tuesday, Feb 19, 2013. The Domus Sanctae Marthae is the hotel-residence that will house Cardinals during the conclave to elect the future Roman Catholic Pontiff. Last week, 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world by announcing his resignation. He will step down on Feb 28, planning to retreat to a life of prayer in a monastery behind the Vatican's ancient walls. -- PHOTO : AP

VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Activists fighting for truth and justice for victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests hold out little hope for progress under the next pope as controversy brews over a US cardinal who covered up for predator clerics.

A Catholic association has asked retired Los Angeles Archbishop Roger Mahony to stay away from next month's conclave after he was stripped of all public duties for mishandling sex abuse claims against dozens of priests.

Supporters reject the demonisation of Benedict on this issue and say he has been the first Pontiff to really confront the problem, meet with victims and punish abusers, as well as try to formulate Church-wide rules against abuse. But victims groups say that is far from enough given the scale of the problem.

"We're not in the least bit optimistic," said Ms Sue Cox of the Britain-based Survivors Network Europe, herself a victim of a paedophile priest when she was 10 to 13 years of age. "They would prefer for it all to go away", voicing her fear that "with all the pomp and ceremony they will try to bury the past".

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