Pope Francis said Wednesday he was hopeful for institutional change after his meeting this weekend with eight clerical abuse survivors in Ireland.
“Sadly, the joy of my Visit was clouded by the recognition of the suffering caused by the abuse of minors and young people by some members of the Church,” Francis said Wednesday. “I begged forgiveness for these crimes and encouraged the efforts made to ensure that they are not repeated.”
Francis has said he wants justice for survivors.
“May the Lord preserve and increase this sense of shame and repentance, and grant us the strength to ensure that it never happens again and that justice is done,” Francis said at Holy Mass Sunday.
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In a CNN report Wednesday, Francis added that the meeting with survivors left a “profound mark,” on him. He added, “Irish bishops have undertaken a serious path of purification and reconciliation with those who have suffered abuse,” including the establishment of “strict rules” to ensure children’s safety.
Pope Francis visited Ireland this weekend to attend the World Meeting of Families 2018. Earlier this week, former Vatican Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano accused him of covering up alleged sexual abuses of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick for five years.
“I will not say a single word on this,” Francis said at a news conference on the return flight from Dublin to Rome. He said he may speak after some time passes.
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Francis acknowledged the church’s failure to address sex abuse claims properly during his visit before meeting with abuse survivors.
He met with eight survivors Saturday for about 90 minutes, the church-run Vatican News reported. Participants described the encounter as “cordial and polite.”
Two of the survivors, Clodagh Malone and Paul Redmond, released a statement immediately after the meeting that said Francis “condemned corruption and cover up within the church,” describing it as “caca,” a colloquial Spanish term that literally means “filth” or “excrement.”
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Malone and Redmond were forcibly separated from their parents in church-run institutions called “Mother and Baby Homes.” They said they asked Francis to call for “reconciliation and reunion for these families.”
Francis was met with some protesters during his visit in Ireland and some survivors remain skeptical.
Marie Collins, a survivor of abuse who resigned last year from a special Vatican commission the pontiff created to address child abuse, told CNN that senior clerics refused to implement safety policies.
Francis said at Sunday’s news conference he has “great respect,” for Collins, but added she has “put much emphasis on the idea” of a “special tribunal,” and that was not deemed “feasible.”
The pope’s visit to Ireland came in the wake of the release of a grand jury report that said six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania systematically covered up the sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children by hundreds of clergymen over the past seven decades.