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Meeting abuse victims, Pope pledges accountability

July 07, 2014

Pope Francis spent three hours on July 7 meeting with victims of sexual abuse, and promised “not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not.”

The Pope celebrated Mass on Monday morning with the sex-abuse victims, then held a lengthy private conversation with each member of the group, which included people from England, Ireland, and Germany. This was the first formal meeting between Pope Francis and sex-abuse victims. His predecessor, Benedict XVI, had held several shorter encounters with victims.

In his homily at the morning Mass the Pope said that priests were guilty of “something more than despicable actions” when they abused children sexually. “It is like a sacrilegious cult,” he said.

The Pope said that there is “no place in the Church’s ministry for those who commit these abuses.” He added that bishops “will be held accountable” for ensuring the safety of minors.

Looking at the victims in the congregation, the Holy Father said that he was reminded of St. Peter, seeing Jesus emerge from a brutal interrogation. “I feel the gaze of Jesus and I ask for the grace to weep,” he said, begging forgiveness on behalf of the Church.

The Pope made a point of asking forgiveness not only for the priests who molested children but also for the bishops and religious superiors whose negligence allowed the abuse to continue. He praised the abuse victims who have insisted on exposing the truth, saying that this “was a service of love.” The Pontiff acknowledged the enormous pain the abuse has caused, and the toll on victims shown in broken relationships, addiction, and even suicides. He added that abuse has had “a toxic effect on faith and hope in God.” He said that the presence of abuse victims “speaks of a miracle of hope, which prevails against the deepest darkness.”

Speaking to reporters after the morning Mass, Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, emphasized that the Pope’s meetings with the abuse victims were not intended for political impact and the morning’s activities were “clearly not a public-relations event.” Rather, he said, it was an opportunity for victims to meet “with a pastor, a father, who is trying to understand deeply what happened.”


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