VALLETTA, Malta – Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday began a pilgrimage in Malta, a Catholic nation buffeted by the worldwide clerical sex abuse scandal and where victims are hoping to meet with him as a way to deal with their pain.
Benedict made no direct comments on the scandals during a five-minute appearance to reporters aboard the flight that took him from Rome, nor in his formal arrival remarks before Maltese officials and foreign diplomats at the airport.
The overnight trip is his first foreign travel since the full force of the scandals has rocked the church and threatened to engulf his papacy.
With the pope listening at the airport welcoming ceremony, the president of this tiny Mediterranean island nation tackled the issue head on.
“It would be wrong in my view to try to use the reprehensible indiscretions of the few to cast a shadow on the church as a whole,” President George Abela told the pontiff.
“The Catholic Church remains committed to safeguarding children and all vulnerable people and to seeing that there is no hiding place for those who seek to do harm.”