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  • Pope Francis Apologizes To Sex Abuse Victims In Surprise Meeting

    Pope Francis apologized to five victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests in an unscheduled meeting in Philadelphia Sunday morning, telling them “God weeps” at their pain.

    “Please know that the Holy Father hears you and believes you,” Francis said, apologizing to those victims whose initial accusations of abuse went unheeded. The enduring pain caused by Catholic clergy and teachers’ abuses “continues to overwhelm me with shame,” he added. “God weeps.” (RELATED: Pope Francis Talks Jesus, The Devil And Immigration At A Harlem School)

    In the case of bishops who had covered up the misdeeds of priests or even participated in abuse themselves, he vowed that “clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they abuse or fail to protect children.”

    Philadelphia was one of the American Catholic archdiocese hardest-hit by the sex abuse revelations of the last two decades. The meeting was Francis’ first such encounter in the U.S., and the second in his papacy. His predecessor, Benedict XVI, had a similar meeting when he visited the U.S. in 2008.

    The victims Francis met Sunday, three women and two men, were the victims of abuse by clergy as well as by teachers and relatives. For understandable reasons, not much more information is available on their identities.

    Abuse survivors’ advocacy groups have criticized Francis for his relative quiet on the subject of sexual abuse in the Catholic church so far in his papacy.

    He had made other references to the crisis over the course of his U.S. visit, but they were primarily framed in terms of supporting clergy in light of the Church’s sullied reputation. (RELATED: Pope Francis Praises New York’s Nuns, Calls Clergy Abuse A ‘Tribulation’)

    But he has chosen several bishops with reputations for eradicating and exposing abuse to serve among his top advisors, including Boston’s Cardinal Seán O’Malley.

    Sunday is the last day of Francis’ five-day, three-city visit to the United States.

    Follow Ivan Plis on Twitter

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