Saying he had just come from meeting with childhood victims of sex abuse, Pope Francis this morning spoke out strongly against the abuse by the clergy. “God weeps,” he said.
Speaking emotionally and with sympathy for the victims, the Pope said sexual abuse can no longer be covered up. “I hold the stories and the suffering and the sorry of children who were sexually abused by priests deep in my heart. I remain overwhelmed with shame that men entrusted with the tender care of children violated these little ones and caused grievous harm. I am profoundly sorry. God weeps.
“The crimes and sins of the sexual abuse of children must no longer be held in secret. I pledge the zealous vigilance of the church to protect children and the promise of accountability for all.
“You survivors of abuse have yourselves become true heralds of hope and ministers of mercy. We humbly owe each one of you and your families our gratitude for your immense courage to shine the light of Christ on the evil of the sexual abuse of children.”
The Pope made the remarks before 300 bishops and cardinals at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary on the Main Line.
At the very beginning of his remarks, the pontiff announced that he, along with Philadelphia archbishop Charles Chaput, had met with the abuse victims before this morning’s gathering of bishops and cardinals, most of whom were on hand for the World Meeting of Families.
Francis focused the remainder of his remarks on a critique of consumer culture, the reluctance of many young people to marry, and the pastoral role bishops should play.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released the following account of the Pope’s meeting with victims this morning:
This morning between 8 and 9 a.m., at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Pope Francis received five adults —three women, two men — who experienced sexual abuse as a minor by clergy, family members or teachers. Each was accompanied by a family member or support person. The group was accompanied by Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston and chairman of the commission set up by the Pope for the protection of minors, Archbishop Charles Chaput and Bishop Fitzgerald, head of the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s commission for the protection of minors. The Pope spoke with visitors, listened to their stories, greeted them individually and prayed with them. He told them that he shared in their suffering, and he had pain and shame in particular in the case of injury caused by clergy or church workers. He renewed the commitment of the Church to the effort that all victims are heard and treated with justice, that the guilty be punished and that the crimes of abuse be combated with an effective prevention activity 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. The meeting lasted about half an hour and ended with the blessing of the Holy Father.
Pope Francis’s prepared remarks from the meeting with victims are below:
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