LEON, Mexico - Victims of sexual abuse accused the Vatican on Saturday of protecting a notorious Mexican priest for decades, and expressed frustration that Pope Benedict XVI would not meet them in Mexico.
The pope has met with abuse victims in many foreign countries but has no plans to do so during a three-day visit to Mexico which began on Friday.
A group including alleged victims of abuse by Marcial Maciel, the late founder of the influential Legion of Christ religious order, presented a book that they say proves that Vatican officials ignored crimes committed by Maciel.
"The opportunity to accept this truth passed through your hands," read a statement presented to journalists by Jose Barba, a former Legionary and alleged victim, during a video transmission from Mexico to the central city of Leon, where the pope is staying.
"But we weren't listened to or believed at the opportune moment. We were ignored for years."
The book, titled "La Voluntad de No Saber," "The Will to Not Know," does not contain new allegations, but claims to document efforts to conceal the truth about Maciel.
The pope arrived in Mexico's central, highly religious Guanajuato state Friday and continues to Cuba on Monday.
After Maciel's death, in 2008, the church was forced to acknowledge that he had fathered children and for years had molested seminarians.
Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, led the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1981 to 2005, coinciding with a period in which many complaints were made against Maciel.
The book shows that "the Vatican lied," said Bernando Barranco, director of the Center of Studies on Religion of Mexico. The pope's decision not to meet with abuse victims is "really unbelievable."
The Legion of Christ is one of the largest and wealthiest of the Church's dozens of orders, present in more than 20 countries and running 12 universities.
Faced with pedophile scandals in Europe and the United States, Benedict XVI decided in May 2010 to take control of the order.
© 1994-2012 Agence France-Presse