Pope Francis has revealed that “regularly” on Fridays, he meets quietly with a group of survivors of sexual abuse, saying it’s important for him to hear their stories because “what they have been through is so hard, they are destroyed.”
The pontiff also said that clerical sex abuse is “the greatest desolation that the Church is undergoing,” one that expresses both the Church’s fragility as well as its “hypocrisy.”
The revelations come in a record released today of the pope’s meetings with Jesuits on his trip last month to Chile and Peru. The transcript was approved by the pope and released by Francis’s longtime Jesuit collaborator, Father Antonio Spadaro.
The director of the Vatican Press Office, Greg Burke, released a statement on Thursday confirming the meetings.
“I can confirm that, several times each month, the Holy Father meets victims of sexual abuse either individually or in groups,” Burke said. “Pope Francis listens to the victims and seeks to help them to heal the grave wounds caused by the abuse they’ve suffered.”
“The meetings take place with the greatest discretion,” Burke said, “out of respect for the victims and their suffering.”
Among other issues discussed in the two sessions with Jesuits, held in the Chilean capital Santiago and the Peruvian capital Lima, the pope also spoke about resistance to his reforms and to his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, saying he prays for those who claim to be in possession of true doctrine and who accuse him of heresy. The pontiff said he wouldn’t read the websites of traditionalist organizations, in order “to preserve my mental health.”
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Photo Credit: By Benhur Arcayan/Malatinszky (cropping) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Paul Fahey is a husband, father of four, and professional lay person.