Pope Francis holds his first meeting with clergy sex abuse survivors

(Washington Post) Pope Francis met for the first time Monday with people sexually abused by priests, saying Mass with six survivors and then meeting privately with each for half an hour.

In the Mass, Francis spoke of the particular pain suffered by people abused by clergy, how the abuse can lead people into difficulty with relationships and sometimes addiction and even suicide. Priests who abuse children are like members “of a sacrilegious cult,” he said.

“I feel the gaze of Jesus and I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons,” he said, according to a transcript released Monday by the Vatican press office.

Immediate details were scarce, as representatives of the survivors and the Vatican said they’d not discuss the meeting until afterwards. Even the names of the survivors were not released; two each came from Great Britain, Ireland and Germany. A release Monday from the Vatican press office said each of the six brought a family member or other companion.

Vatican blogger Rocco Palmo reported that half were men and half were women. Reuters reported that the meeting was at the pope’s Vatican residence.

In April, Francis asked for forgiveness for “the damage” done by clergy abusers and created a commission, half of whose named members are women. One of the women is a survivor.

But survivors and their advocates – particularly in Argentina – have been critical of the pope, saying he never met with victims in his many years as a church leader there and didn’t comply with the Vatican’s demand that countries create guidelines for handling sex-abuse allegations. [More]


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