Pope Francis will meet with a group of sex abuse victims in June, and declared there would be 'zero tolerance' for clerical sex abuse, reports the Catholic News Service.
During an inflight news conference on his return to Rome from the Holy Land, the Pope also confirmed reports that the Vatican is investigating charges its former Secretary of State misappropriated $20 million from the Vatican bank. And he announced that he plans to visit the Philippines and Sri Lanka in January.
The Pope described the abuse of children by priests as a 'very grave' problem, the betrayal of a priest's duty to lead young people to holiness, comparable to performance of a Black Mass. 'We must move ahead, ahead, zero tolerance,' he said.
As an indication of how seriously he takes the problem, the Pope said he would meet in the first week of June with a group of six to eight sex abuse victims from various countries, including Germany, England, and Ireland. He will also celebrate a private Mass with the group in the Vatican guesthouse where he lives. Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, a member of the recently established Vatican commission on child protection, will be present at the gathering, the Pope said.
Pope Francis is not known to have met previously with a group of sex abuse victims, something Pope Benedict did several times in various countries. Marie Collins, a sex abuse survivor from Ireland whom the Pope appointed to the child protection commission, met him at the Vatican in May.
Pope Francis said the Church cannot have privileged 'daddy's boys,' exempt from punishment when it comes to sex abuse of minors.
He revealed that three unnamed bishops are currently under investigation by the Vatican for misdeeds related to sex abuse, and another has been found guilty and is awaiting punishment. It was not clear if the bishops in question had been accused of personally abusing children or of mishandling accusations of abuse against other priests.
The Pope was also asked about reports that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who as Vatican Secretary of State was considered the highest Vatican official, mishandled 15 million euro (about $20.5 million) in funds held by the Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican bank.
'It's something being studied, it's not clear,' the Pope said. 'Maybe it's the truth, but at this moment it's not definitive.'
Pope to meet with sex abuse victims for first time in June (CNS)
Pope to meet survivors of clerical sexual abuse (TJH Council)