Pope shaken after meeting with sex abuse victims

Pope Benedict XVI was said to be deeply shaken after he met with a group of sex abuse victims in his native Germany, where disenchantment with the Roman Catholic Church has grown in the wake of the scandal.

The meeting, which occurred at a seminary in Erfurt, came on the second day of the pontiff's four-day visit.

The victims had been abused by Catholic priests and church personnel. He also met with people "who care for those injured by these crimes," according to a statement from the Vatican press office, CNN reports.

"Moved and deeply shaken by the sufferings of the victims, the Holy Father expressed his deep compassion and regret over all that was done to them and their families," the statement added.

"He assured the people present that those in positions of responsibility in the church are seriously concerned to deal with all crimes of abuse and are committed to effective measures for the protection of children."

CNN reports:

The pope has had similar meetings elsewhere, in the face of outcries from many nations in Europe, North America and beyond criticizing the church for its handling of sexual abuse cases.

Friday's visit was unique in that it took place in the homeland of Benedict, where he'd also served as a cardinal.

He himself got caught up in the scandal in at least one case, when he -- as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -- approved the transfer of a man within Germany in the wake of accusations that the man had abused children.

But the archdiocese has said the then-cardinal was never personally aware of the details of the man's case. In March 2010, the priest -- then identified only as H -- was suspended, the archdiocese of Munich and Freising announced.

Five years earlier, enthusiasm was high in Germany's Catholic community when Benedict was named pope. But the sex abuse scandal, and a perception that a conservative church is unlikely to change its ways, has affected the church in the European nation.

According to Der Spiegel magazine, more than 181,000 Catholics have left the church since the scandal broke. And candidates for the priesthood have plummeted 62% since 1990, according to the German Bishops Conference, CNN reports.

Victims' associations have said the Vatican has not done enough to bring the perpetrators to justice, a view echoed by German victims who joined 8,000 protesters on a march through Berlin, where the Pope began his visit, Reuters reports.

On Friday, the Pope visited the monastery where Martin Luther lived before launching the Reformation, and warned his Lutheran hosts that "a new form of Christianity" posed challenges to mainline Protestants and Catholics alike, supposedly referring to evangelical and Pentecostal churches.