Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone's preview of Pope's US trip

Vatican City, Apr. 10, 2008 (vaticans.org) - Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone , the Vatican Secretary of State, has offered a preview of next week's trip by Pope Benedict XVI to the US, in a pair of interviews with American news outlets.

Speaking to an Associated Press reporter, Cardinal Bertone said that the Holy Father will address the effects of the sex-abuse scandal when he speaks to the clergy in New York. The Pontiff "will try to open the path of healing and reconciliation," the cardinal said. He added that the Pope is keenly aware of the suffering endured by victims of priestly abuse, and the damage done to the Church as a whole, "because it was a contradiction with the great educational mission of the Church."

In a separate interview with the Fox News network-- which was taped for a future telecast-- the Secretary of State added the observation that the sex-abuse scandal has left an "open wound."

Some American observers have questioned whether Pope Benedict avoided a visit to Boston because of the acute fallout from the scandal there. But Cardinal Bertone said that the Pope was limiting his trip to two cities, Washington and New York, in order to conserve his energy. He added, however, in his remarks to AP, that the Pope's health is fine. Even as he maintains a busy works schedule, the cardinal said, "all those who are near to him see his freshness."

The Pope's chief deputy confirmed that when he speaks at the UN, Pope Benedict will focus on human rights and the crucial importance of recognizing natural law. In his remarks to the Fox News network, he said that the Vatican feels some kinship with Americans on the issue of natural law and "the value of religion-- not only in private life but also in public life." The US and the Vatican have frequently been allies, he added, in defense of human life and marriage.

Cardinal Bertone conceded that the Holy See has not always agreed with US policy-- an indirect allusion to Vatican criticisms of the war in Iraq. He spoke to Fox News about a "difference of opinion" on the justification for the use of military force.

In his discussion with AP, the Secretary of State acknowledged that security will be tight during the papal trip, particularly in light of threats issued by Al Qaida that named the Pope as an enemy of Islam. But the Pope will not be deterred by threats, he said. "He entrusts himself to God."

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