ERFURT, Germany – Pope Benedict XVI met with German victims of sexual abuse by priests and expressed “deep compassion and regret” at the suffering of those abused by members of the clergy, the Vatican said Friday.

The pope met for half an hour with five victims on the second day of his four-day state visit to his native Germany, following an ecumenical service with members of the country’s Lutheran church and an evening vesper held in a small chapel nestled deep in the former East Germany.

Germany’s Catholic Church has seen a surge in the numbers of faithful leaving the congregation after hundreds of people came forward last year with stories of having been physically or sexually abused by members of the clergy. Church leaders had expressed hope that Benedict’s visit could help heal wounds left by the scandal.

Benedict has been accused by victims groups and their lawyers of being part of a systematic cover-up by the church hierarchy for pedophile priests, in his earlier roles as an archbishop in Germany and later at the helm of the Vatican morals office.

The Vatican said in a statement after Friday’s meeting that the pope was “moved and deeply shaken.” He expresses the hope that God “may heal the wounds of the victims and grant them inner peace,” the Vatican said.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the victims were two women and three men. He said the meeting was held in “very calm” circumstances and that a member of the hotline service set up by Germany’s church to field abuse claims was also present.

The pope assured the group that church officials are committed to enacting effective measures to protect children from abuse, the Vatican said.

The pope has had similar meetings on trips to the United States, Australia, Malta and Britain, all hit by the worldwide sex abuse scandal that has plagued the Roman Catholic Church over the past decades. In Germany, claims began to emerge in 2010.

Emmanuel Henckens of Belgium, a member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the German meeting “will make a handful of wounded individuals feel better for a while” but will do nothing “to stop priests from molesting kids, or bishops from concealing crimes.”

Benedict started Friday in Berlin with a closed-door meeting with leaders from Germany’s Muslim community. He told them he understood the “great importance” they placed on the religious dimension of life.

In one of his main themes, he then made a landmark visit to the Erfurt monastery, where Martin Luther studied before splitting from the Catholic Church centuries ago and launching the Protestant Reformation.

In a sign of how much relations have improved between the two churches in recent decades, the pope praised Luther for his “deep passion and driving force” in his beliefs. But he didn’t announce any concrete steps to achieve greater unity among Christians, as some had hoped.

During an ecumenical service held in the monastery’s stone chapel, with soaring stained glass windows that date from even before Luther prayed here in the early 1500s,

Benedict acknowledged there was talk before the visit that he would come bearing an “ecumenical gift.”

Instead, the pontiff told an audience including representatives of Germany’s Lutheran Church that such a belief was “a political misreading of faith and of ecumenism.”