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Pope Benedict Urges Respect for Human Rights at U.N.

April 18, 2008 at 6:05 PM EDT

TRANSCRIPT

JUDY WOODRUFF: The pope promotes human rights at the U.N., one day after an unprecedented meeting with victims of sex abuse by priests. Kwame Holman has the story.

KWAME HOLMAN: Pope Benedict XVI arrived in New York today, beginning the final leg of his six-day trip to the U.S.

His speech this morning to the United Nations General Assembly was only the third time a pope has addressed world leaders in that forum.

He praised the U.N. and stressed the importance of multilateralism. And he urged the audience to respect human rights.

POPE BENEDICT XVI, Vatican City (through translator): The promotion of human rights remains the most effective strategy for eliminating inequalities between countries and social groups and for increasing security.

Indeed, the victims of hardship and despair, whose human dignity is violated with impunity, become easy prey to the call to violence, and they can then become violators of peace.

KWAME HOLMAN: His words were met with a standing ovation. But for many American Roman Catholics, the most important part of the visit took place yesterday, in a private, unannounced meeting with victims of clergy abuse. Several times during his visit, the pope reflected on the abuse.

POPE BENEDICT XVI: No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse.

KWAME HOLMAN: Pope Benedict said the scandal had caused him deep shame.

REV. FEDERICO LOMBARDI, Papal Spokesman: His holiness assured them of his prayers for their intentions, for their families, and for all victims of sexual abuse.

KWAME HOLMAN: Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley was also at the meeting with several abuse victims from that diocese. In 2002, the scandal came to light in Boston and quickly spread across the U.S.; 5,000 victims have come forward since.

Some of the victims who attended yesterday’s meeting with the pontiff spoke this morning on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

BERNIE MCDAID: It hit me hard. I actually cried. It was with my mother, and I don’t even go to mass. And it was just very emotional.

And then later, meeting him, while he was holding my hand and telling him what it was like as an altar boy, being abused in the sacristy while you’re praying to God at a vulnerable age of 11 and 12, how that was not just sexual abuse, but spiritual abuse.

FAITH JOHNSTON: I think my tears alone spoke much — I think it spoke louder than words. And just the way he looked at me, the way he spoke to me, I knew right away that he understood exactly the pain that I have been carrying around for the past seven or eight years.

KWAME HOLMAN: But activists from SNAP, or the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, who have been protesting the pope’s visit this week, asked for more.

Barbara Dorris is the group’s outreach director.

BARBARA DORRIS, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests: Our concern is still that, while this is a wonderful gesture, and that we have had apologies, and we understand that the Holy Father is suffering, our fear is he’s still not taken a decisive action.

KWAME HOLMAN: Clergy members who have attended papal events this week expressed the hope the pontiff’s visit to the U.S. will help repair the breach among American Catholics.

Father Alberto Cutie.

FATHER ALBERT CUTIE: I think people need to know that the church is not just about bad news. There’s lots of good news. You know, a small percentage of the clergy getting in trouble with scandals shouldn’t define the Catholic Church. And, unfortunately, it has in some way defined us for the last several years.

KWAME HOLMAN: Before the pontiff leaves New York on Sunday, he’ll visit Ground Zero and give a mass at Yankee Stadium.