Pope Francis met with five adults who were abused by Catholic clergy when they were children and said the Church has to work to prevent these types of crimes. He also vowed that anyone involved in the sex abuse, or the cover up of the abuse, will be held accountable. Although the pope has previously met with victims of sex abuse in Rome, it marked the first time he had done so in a foreign tour, notes Reuters.
“The people who had the responsibility to take care of these tender ones violated that trust and caused them great pain. God weeps for the sexual abuse of children,” Francis said. “I commit to a careful oversight of the church to ensure that youth are protected, and I promise that all those responsible will be held accountable.”
The pontiff met with three women and two men who were abused as minors, notes the Washington Post. “I am profoundly sorry that your innocence was violated by those who you trusted,” Francis told the victims, according to remarks released by the Vatican. “We promise to support your continued healing and to always be vigilant to protect the children of today and tomorrow.”
Although the meeting with sex abuse victims didn’t come exactly as a surprise, the Vatican had been refusing to confirm whether it would happen, saying it would be a personal encounter rather than a media event. But his meeting on the final day of the pope’s U.S. tour comes after a week in which his remarks on the issue had come under criticism by some who said the pontiff was focusing too much on how the abuse affected the clergy rather than the victims. On Sunday though, he seemed to take this criticism head on by addressing the plight of victims directly at a speech to bishops, points out the Guardian.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests was not impressed with the pontiff’s remarks, notes the New York Times. “Is a child anywhere on earth safer now that a pope, for maybe the seventh or eighth time or ninth time, has briefly chatted with abuse victims? No,” said the group’s director, David Clohessy, who characterized the pope’s actions as “a smart public relations move … Nothing more.”