As I expected, sex abuse was the topic which the media latched onto, at the expense of the Holy Father's other comments.
ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Associated Press) - Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday he was "deeply ashamed" of the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church and will work to make sure pedophiles don't become priests.
Benedict was answering questions submitted in advance by reporters aboard a special Alitalia airliner as he was flying from Rome to Washington to begin his first papal pilgrimage to the United States.
"It is a great suffering for the Church in the United States and for the church in general and for me personally that this could happen," Benedict said. "It is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betray in this way their mission ... to these children."
"I am deeply ashamed and we will do what is possible so this cannot happen again in the future," the pope said.
Benedict pledged that pedophiles would not be priests in the Catholic Church.
"We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry," Benedict said in English. "It is more important to have good priests than many priests. We will do everything possible to heal this wound."
Benedict's pilgrimage was the first trip by a pontiff to the United States since the scandal involving priests sexually abusing young people rocked U.S. dioceses. The church has paid out more than $2 billion in abuse costs since 1950, with hundreds of millions in settlements just since 2002. Six U.S. dioceses have declared bankruptcy in recent years because of the financial toll of the scandal.
Pedophilia is "absolutely incompatible" with the priesthood," Benedict said.
Vatican officials selected four questions to be read by the journalists to the pontiff aboard the plane.
Benedict described his pilgrimage as a journey to meet a "great people and a great church." He spoke about the American model of religious values within a system of separation of church and state.
Update: John Allen has posted the transcript of the in flight Q&A session. The other three questions were on immigration, using religion in America to revitalize the Church in Europe, and natural law.
The question on the sexual abuse scandal was asked by John Allen. You can read the transcript here. A video of the Holy Father answering the question is available here.
2nd Update: This is my 1,000 post.