Pope meets abuse victims, expresses sorrow and shame

Pope Francis met with victims of sexual abuse in Philadelphia on Sunday and told them words could not express his sorrow.

The pope met with five adults who had suffered abuse as children.

The victims had been abused by the clergy or by members of their families or their teachers.

Francis heard their stories and spoke to the group, then met with each survivor individually, praying with them.

Francis has previously met with victims, as did his predecessor, Benedict XVI.

The Pope told the victims and their supporters: “You are precious children of God who should always expect our protection, our care and our love.”

The Pope also said he is deeply sorry for those occasions when victims or their families spoke out and reported abuse, but were not believed.

“I deeply regret that some bishops failed in their responsibility to protect children,” he added.

“It is very disturbing to know that in some cases bishops even were abusers.

“I pledge to you that we will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead.

“Clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they abuse or fail to protect children.”

Francis also told those at the meeting that “Your stories of survival, each unique and compelling, are powerful signs of the hope that comes from the Lord’s promise to be with us always.”

“We promise to support your continued healing and to always be vigilant to protect the children of today and tomorrow.”

Also present at the meeting was Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who heads the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Speaking later to bishops and seminarians, Pope Francis said “God weeps” and “I regret this profoundly”.

The Pope described himself as “overwhelmed by shame”.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests described the Pope’s meeting with victims as a public relations gesture.

Francis’s comments on the scandal came after days of simmering resentment about his earlier remarks, in which critics said he seemed more concerned about its effect on the clergy than the victims.


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