Pope Francis Meets With Clerical Sex Abuse Victims
Vatican says meeting was with 5 adults who had suffered sexual abuse as minors.
— -- Pope Francis met with victims of clerical sex abuse today and promised to hold those responsible accountable.
The 30-minute meeting was with five adults who had suffered sexual abuse as minors by the clergy or members of their family or teachers, according to the Vatican. The meeting, held on his final day in the United States, also included a family member of each victim.
Here is what Francis told the victims:
"I hold the stories and the suffering and the sorrow 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.
"These 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."
Francis Calls on Bishops to Guide Youths, Accept Modern World
According to The Associated Press, Francis is creating a new Vatican tribunal that will prosecute bishops who cover up for abusive priests.
Francis isn't the first pope to meet with victims of clerical sex abuse in the U.S. When Pope Benedict XVI went to Boston in 2008, he also met with several abuse victims.
Later, while addressing U.S. bishops attending the World Meeting of Families, Francis renewed his promise that those responsible will be punished. Francis encouraged the bishops to accept the modern world and to guide youths who may appear indifferent towards marriage and family, which he said was the "fundamental locus of the covenant between the Church and God's creation."
"Christians are not 'immune' to the changes of their times. This concrete world, with all its many problems and possibilities, is where we must live, believe and proclaim," he said. "A pastor watches over the dreams, the lives and the growth of his flock. This 'watchfulness' is not the result of talking but of shepherding. Only one capable of standing 'in the midst of' the flock can be watchful, not someone who is afraid of questions, contact, accompaniment."
Francis echoed similar sentiments in a speech to Congress earlier in his visit about the threats against marriage and family.
"Without the family, not even the Church would exist," Francis told the bishops today. "We need to invest our energies not so much in rehearsing the problems of the world around us and the merits of Christianity, but in extending a sincere invitation to young people to be brave and to opt for marriage and the family."
The pontiff also alluded to the Supreme Court's recent ruling on same-sex marriage, though he offered no opinion on the matter.
"Until recently, we lived in a social context where the similarities between the civil institution of marriage and the Christian sacrament were considerable and shared. The two were interrelated and mutually supportive. This is no longer the case," he said. "We need to invest our energies not so much in rehearsing the problems of the world around us and the merits of Christianity, but in extending a sincere invitation to young people to be brave and to opt for marriage and the family."
While Francis and the Catholic Church still disapprove of marriage between same-sex couples, he has sped up the process of annulling marriages and last year married several couples who had lived together beforehand.