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Pope to apologise for sex scandal
Pope Benedict XVI, 12 July 2008
The Pope's visit has prompted mixed reactions from Australians
Pope Benedict XVI has said he will apologise for decades of sexual abuse of children by Australian priests.
As he headed to Australia on the longest foreign trip of his papacy, he said that paedophilia was "incompatible" with being a priest.
Abuse victims have said they will hold protest rallies during his visit.
The Pope is also expected to use the trip to discuss climate change, telling reporters that people must find an ethical way to change their lifestyles.
Climate change will be a theme of a major Catholic youth festival, World Youth Day, which the Pope is heading.
The event is expected to draw some 200,000 young Catholics to Sydney.
But the six-day event has been overshadowed by the launch of an investigation into sexual abuse allegations.
The leader of Australia's Catholics, Cardinal George Pell, has come under criticism for his handling of a 1982 case allegedly involving the sexual abuse of minors by a priest.
"It is essential for the Church to reconcile, to prevent, to help and to see guilt in this problem," Pope Benedict told reporters during his 20-hour flight to Sydney.
We have to face up to this great challenge... to change the situation of the environment for the good
Pope Benedict XVI
"It must be clear... that being a real priest is incompatible with this (sexual abuse) because priests are in the service of our Lord."
During his nine-day trip, the Pope will also meet Aborigine groups, and is likely to repeat an apology made by Pope John Paul to Australia's indigenous people for injustices carried out by Catholic missionaries.
He also told reporters that he wanted to wake up consciences, to make politicians and experts respond to environmental issues.
"We have to face up to this great challenge and find the ethical capacity to change the situation of the environment for the good," said Pope Benedict.
But he made it clear that he had no intention of addressing any specific political or technical questions about climate change.
The 81-year Pope's medical advisers have taken elaborate steps to protect his health during the gruelling 20-hour flight from Italy, says the BBC's David Willey in Rome.
Pope Benedict XVI (file image)
The Pope's trip to Australia is the ninth overseas visit of his papacy
A special sleeping compartment has been prepared on the Alitalia plane and the German pontiff will spend three full days resting at a Catholic study centre near Sydney before appearing at the head of a Sydney Harbour flotilla on Thursday.
Pope Benedict will close his trip by presiding over an open-air Mass on 20 July at Sydney's Randwick Racecourse, which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.
The Pope's visit - his ninth outside Italy - has created controversy with demonstrators vowing to protest against the Church's stand on homosexuality and birth control.
In response, authorities in the state of New South Wales have introduced new laws bringing the threat of heavy fines to anyone causing annoyance to pilgrims.
Civil liberty groups have denounced such sanctions as unnecessary and repugnant.