Pope Francis was in a no holds barred mood after meeting with five adults abused as children, vowing to hold those involved in the crimes and cover-ups accountable.
The pope departed the shores of the United States after a six-day visit where he made several appearances addressing dignitaries, diplomats, and lay people in Washington, New York, and Philadelphia.
In the last leg of his six-day U.S. trip, the 78-year-old Argentine pope celebrated Mass outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a neoclassical edifice astride a rocky hill overlooking the Schuylkill River, before the largest crowd of his visit.
Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia, reportedly told the press that more than a million people came out to see and hear the pope.
“I have in my heart the stories of suffering and the pain of the minors who were sexually abused by priests,” the pope, speaking in his native Spanish, told bishops in Philadelphia after meeting privately with the sexual abused victims, three women and two men.
“This disgrace keeps burdening me, that the people who had the responsibility of caring for these tender ones raped them and caused them great pain. God weeps for the sexual abuse of children,” the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion-member Catholic Church added.
Francis reportedly told the victims that he deeply regretted that some bishops had failed to protect children and was disturbed that in some cases bishops were themselves the abusers.
“I am profoundly sorry that your innocence was violated by those who you trusted,” the pope told the victims, according to a transcript provided by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“For those who were abused by a member of the clergy, I am deeply sorry for the times when you or your family spoke out to report the abuse, but you were not heard or believed. Please know that the Holy Father heard you and believes you.”
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said “two or three” of five victims were abused by priests or Catholic educators, with the others abused by a family member or non-Catholic teacher.
Reports that priests had sexually abused children and bishops had covered up their actions emerged in 2002 in the United States and in other countries several years later.
The scandal damaged the Catholic Church worldwide, eroding its moral authority and requiring costly legal settlements.
Davy Desmond, Readers Bureau, Contributor
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