In a letter to the Irish Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI apologized to sexual abuse victims. Germany's top archbishop said the letter was also relevant to the crisis in his church.
The pope did not address the abuse cases in Germany
The head of Germany's Roman Catholic Church said on Saturday that Pope Benedict's apology to victims of sexual abuse was also a warning to his country's church.
"The scandal of sexual abuse is not just an Irish problem. It's a church scandal in many places and it is a church scandal in Germany," said Archbishop Robert Zollitsch in a statement after the release of the Pope's letter covering sexual abuse of minors by clergy in Ireland.
"That's why I understand the Pope's admonition to the bishops in Ireland as an admonition to us at the same time," he said. "I'm grateful for these words."
The letter to Irish Catholics, read aloud by Cardinal Sean Brady on Saturday, apologized to victims of sexual abuse by clergy and called for decisive action. However, it made no reference to the situation in Germany.
In recent weeks, more than 250 former students have come forward with allegations of abuse by priests across Germany, with some cases dating back to the 1950s. Several allegations have also emerged in the pope's former archdiocese in Bavaria.
Victims say letter 'falls short'
The pope's response came as countries across Europe struggle to deal with sexual abuse allegations concerning priests and other religious workers, numbering in the hundreds.
"You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry," the pope wrote in his letter, which was signed Friday.
The pope, left, met German Archbishop Robert Zollitsch last week to discuss abuse cases in Germany
Addressing Irish bishops, he told them "you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law for the crime of child abuse."
He also chastised those religious workers who had abused children, saying they "must answer" for their crimes "before properly constituted tribunals."
"Openly acknowledge your guilt, submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God's mercy," the pope wrote.
An advocacy group for the Irish victims said it was disappointed that the letter seemed to focus only on the role of lower-ranked priests without recognizing the Vatican's culpability.
"We feel the letter falls far short of addressing the concerns of the victims," Maeve Lewis, executive director of One in Four, told Reuters.
Zollitsch gave his own apology on Saturday for incidents of sexual abuse by a priest in the Freiburg diocese.
In an anonymous letter published in several German newspapers, a self-described abuse victim alleged that Zollitsch covered up sexual abuse in the Black Forest community of Oberharmersbach in the 1980s and 1990s.
"I apologize to the victims in the name of the diocese and ask for forgiveness," said the archbishop in a statement on the diocese's Web site. Zollitsch was in charge of human resources and staffing for the diocese at the time.
The church has rejected the charge, but in his apology Zollitsch wrote that as archbishop, he would act "more forcefully and be more insistent in [his] search for witnesses and victims."
Editor: Andreas Illmer