Pope Benedict made the first papal visit ever to the UK today, but the occasion was overshadowed by questions about the church’s history of sexual abuse. In response to written questions from reporters aboard his plane, Benedict admitted some Vatican culpability, the Wall Street Journal reports. “It’s sad that church authorities were not sufficiently vigilant, fast and decisive to take the necessary measures,” he said. “For all of this, we are in a moment of penitence.”
The pope has chastised abusive priests before, but never the church’s hierarchy. Today, he said pedophile priests need to be “protected from themselves,” and called on church authorities to ensure they “are excluded from every form of contact with the young.” Sex abuse victims from throughout Europe have threatened to converge on the UK to protest Benedict’s visit, but Benedict says he’s not worried about the outcry. “A church that tries to be popular is on the wrong track,” he said.