In what has been described as a “profound spiritual encounter,” Pope Francis has begged forgiveness in his meeting with six victims of sexual abuse on Monday reported Vatican News. Three men and three women from Europe detailed their ordeals to the Holy Father in a “series of private conversations” that lasted over three hours.
The leader of the Catholic Church took responsibility for the sex abuse crimes, and speaking in his native Spanish “begged forgiveness” for the pedophile priests he declared “behaved like a sacrilegious cult.” The survivors from Ireland, the United Kingdom and Germany arrived at the Vatican on Sunday afternoon and enjoyed dinner with Pope Francis at his Santa Marta residence. Fr. Frederico Lombardi, head of the Vatican Press Office, provided no personal details or the identity of the victims to Vatican Radio, except to detail Pope Francis’ public reaction and the events of the past two days. However, one woman was identified in the Irish Times.
Either a friend or relative along with members of the fairly new council, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, joined the six sex abuse victims to celebrate Mass with Pope Francis and share breakfast on Monday. Fr. Lombardi said the Pontiff spent approximately thirty private minutes with each person, after which they appeared to be “profoundly moved, but also positive and serene.” According to the Vatican Press Office the survivors “expressed gratitude and deep emotion” for Pope Francis’ attentiveness.
The New York Times reported the meeting was lambasted by sex abuse support groups as “public relations coups for the Vatican and distracting placebos for others.” Mary Caplan, a member of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said Pope Francis’ efforts “provide temporary, but false hope.” However, Father Lombardi “hopes these important encounters are the beginning of a road towards healing and reconciliation."