EDINBURGH, Scotland — Pope Benedict XVI, beginning a controversial visit to Britain, acknowledged Thursday that the Catholic Church had failed to act decisively or quickly enough to deal with priests who rape and molest children. He said the church's top priority now was to help the victims heal.
The pope's comments to reporters traveling with him from Rome marked his most thorough admission to date of church failures to deal with pedophile priests. The issue has reignited with the recent revelations in Belgium of hundreds of new victims, at least 13 of whom had committed suicide.
Benedict's four-day state visit has been overshadowed by anger over the abuse scandal and indifference in the highly secular country, where Catholics are a minority at 10 percent and have endured centuries of anti-Catholic persecution.