[QODLink]
Europe

Pope Francis meets abuse victims at Vatican

Critics say the meeting is exploiting victims and call on Catholic leaders to make details of abuse probes public.

Last updated: 07 Jul 2014 09:01
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

Pope Francis has met with victims of paedophile priests for the first time, as a Vatican commission moves to address the problem of clerical sex abuse in developing countries.

Six victims from Britain, Germany, and Ireland met with the pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church at his private residence near Saint Peter's Basilica, in a gesture aimed at expressing his closeness to the tens of thousands of people abused by priests globally.

Al Jazeera's Tim Friend, reporting from the Vatican, said that the pope also officiated a mass for his guests.

Also present at the meeting was Sean O'Malley, the cardinal of the US city of Boston, where a sex abuse scandal rocked the American Catholic church 10 years ago.   

The private meeting - the first with abuse victims since Francis was elected in February last year - has been awaited by victim support groups who have criticised the Argentinian for not acting earlier.

Francis has been slow to speak out on the issue, which has hugely damaged the Catholic Church for over a decade, but in May he branded the sexual abuse of children by priests a crime and promised "zero tolerance".

Monday's encounter comes a day after a meeting of the commission set up by Francis to advise on the sexual abuse crisis and draw up protocols for the pope to consider.

The meeting is expected to open up the commission to experts from the Southern Hemisphere and the developing world, where paedophilia is largely a taboo subject and cases of abuse are much less likely to be reported.

'Like a satanic mass'

In May, the UN Committee Against Torture said the Church had major failings in dealing with abuse cases, voicing concerns about a cover-up culture and calling for alleged paedophiles to be suspended immediately pending probe.

The pope gave his strongest response yet, saying "sexual abuse is such an ugly crime ... it is like a satanic mass".

Last year Francis strengthened Vatican laws on child abuse, broadening the definition on crimes against minors to include paedophilia - though the legislation only covers clergy and lay people who work in or for the Vatican, not the universal Catholic Church.

A historic first trial against a former ambassador to the Vatican is expected to take place after Polish archbishop Jozef Wesolowski - former papal envoy to the Dominican Republic - was convicted of sex abuse by a Church tribunal last month and defrocked.

Vatican officials this year revealed that 3,420 abuse cases had been handled over the past decade by the Church's Canon Law prosecutors, with 848 priests defrocked and a further 2,572 ordered to "live a life of prayer or penance", for example in a monastery.

But the Vatican's continued insistence on keeping its inquiries into suspect priests secret has angered victims and campaigners.

466

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
UNHCR says hundreds of people trapped in Yaloke town risk death if they are not evacuated to safety urgently.
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Featured
Long-standing dispute over Christian use of the word 'Allah' raises concerns about a very un-Merry Christmas.
The threat posed by ISIL has prompted thousands of young Kurds to join the PKK.
Baja California - with its own grim history of disappeared people - finds a voice in the fight against violence.
Russian feminist rockers fight system holding 700,000 - the world's largest per capita prison population after the US.
Weeks of growing protests against Muslims continue in Dresden with 15,000 hitting the streets last Monday.