Pope Francis issued a strong condemnation against the sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy following a private meeting with several victims from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
The Pope, who spoke off-the-cuff during a meeting with bishops from around the world attending the World Meeting of Families, said that following his meeting with the victims, he felt the need to speak on the crime of abuse.
“I have engraved in my heart the stories, the sufferings and the pain of the minors that were sexually abused by priests,” he said.
“It continues to be shameful that people, who had in their charge the tender care of those little ones, raped them and caused them damage.I profoundly regret it, God weeps!”
The crimes of sexual abuse, he continued, can no longer be kept secret. He also pledged the Church’s ‘zealous vigilance’ to protect minors and promised that “those responsible shall be held accountable.
The 78 year old Pontiff praised the courage of the victims who have come forward and brought to light the abuse by members of the clergy.
“Humbly, we owe to each one of them and their families our gratitude for their immense courage to shine forth the light of Christ on the evil of the sexual abuse of minors,” he said.
Meeting with Victims
In a statement released this morning by Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Pope met with victims “between 8:00 and 9:00 am at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.”
“The group consisted of five adults – three women, two men – who have suffered abuse when they were minors. Each person was accompanied by a family member or support person,” Fr. Lombardi stated.
Also present at the meeting was Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston and head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, head of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office for the Protection of Minors.
During the meeting, the Pope listened to their stories and spoke with them, both as a group and individually.
“He then prayed with them and expressed his solidarity in sharing their suffering, as well as his own pain and shame in especially in the case of injury caused them by clergy or church workers,” the Vatican spokesman stated.
“Pope Francis reiterated the commitment of the Church so that all victims be heard and treated with justice; the guilty be punished and crimes of abuse be combated with an effective prevention program in the Church and in society. The Pope thanked the victims for their essential contribution to restore the truth and begin the journey of healing.”
Fr. Lombardi concluded his statement saying that the meeting lasted for about 30 minutes and ended with the Pope giving them his blessing.