Yesterday, Pope Francis met with victims of clerical sexual abuse. He asked for forgiveness and told them that bishops who fail to protect children from abuse 'will be held accountable,' The Catholic Herald reports.
Speaking at Mass in the chapel of his Vatican residence, the Pope said: 'There is no place in the Church's ministry for those who commit these abuses, and I commit myself not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not. All bishops must carry out their pastoral ministry with the utmost care in order to help foster the protection of minors, and they will be held accountable.'
He compared child abuse by priests and bishops to 'a sacrilegious cult' and said that such crimes had 'a toxic effect' on faith and hope in God.
'Some of you have held fast to faith,' he said, 'while for others the experience of betrayal and abandonment has led to a weakening of faith in God. Your presence here speaks of the miracle of hope, which prevails against the deepest darkness. Surely it is a sign of God's mercy that today we have this opportunity to encounter one another, to adore God, to look in one another's eyes and seek the grace of reconciliation.'
Six abuse survivors – two each from Ireland, Britain and Germany – attended the Mass. The Pope received them afterwards at his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae. Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said Francis spent 30 minutes with each of the six visitors.
Read full article: Bishops will be held accountable on abuse, Pope Francis tells survivors (The Catholic Herald)
From the Truth, Justice and Healing Council:
Pope Francis has denounced sex abuse by clergy and has asked six survivors of clerical sexual abuse for forgiveness for the Church’s sins of omissions in sex abuse scandals.
The Pope met with the survivors, three men and three women from Ireland, Britain and Germany in his Casa Santa Marta residence yesterday (7 July).
Francis Sullivan CEO of the Catholic Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council said the long-awaited meeting was an important symbolic gesture that sends a very clear message that the Pope places the issues of clerical sexual abuse at the very top of his agenda.
'For the first time it seems, the Pope has publically recognised the hurt and suffering people feel over the inaction of Church leaders when confronted with the reality of sex abuse,' Mr Sullivan said.
'I hope if he travels elsewhere, the Pope will meet with more survivors of abuse.
'It is also very welcome that the Pope has flagged his recognition that it has been leadership within the Church that has played a part in the abuse scandal.
'The comments from the Pope today are the strongest we have heard from the Vatican and they reinforce the position taken by the Catholic Church here in Australia as we go through the Royal Commission.
'The Pope now needs to back up his comments with real action and start the long and difficult process of reform which, in a 2000 year-old institution like the Catholic Church, can be difficult, slow and complicated.
'The Pope now has in place his agenda for reform, a powerful internal dedicated Vatican Commission to drive the changes and the support and good will of the billions of Catholics around the world. Now is the time for change and real action,” Mr Sullivan said.
'On a related matter, the Pope plans to expand the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors with the possible inclusion of members from Africa and Asia before the next meeting in October this year.
'Any expansion of the Commission should include a representative from Australia, given the current forensic, sustained investigation underway in this country,' Mr Sullivan said.
Read the Pope’s homily at the Mass for survivors here:
Read Media Release: Pope Francis meets with survivors of clerical sexual abuse (TJHC)
Pope meets sex abuse survivors in 'profound spiritual encounter' (Vatican Radio)
IMAGE: Vatican Radio