Pope’s remarks Sunday on sexual abuse

This article appears in the Francis in the United States feature series. View the full series.

Following is the English translation of remarks Pope Francis made in Spanish to sex abuse survivors, whom he met in Philadelphia this morning. The text was provided to NCR by the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference.

Remarks of Pope Francis for Philadelphia Meeting with Survivors

My dearest brothers and sisters in Christ, I am grateful for this opportunity to meet you I am blessed by your presence. Thank you for coming here today.

Words cannot fully express my sorrow for the abuse you suffered. You are precious children of God who should always expect our protection, our care and our love. I am profoundly sorry that your innocence was violated by those who you trusted. In some cases the trust was betrayed by members of your own family, in other cases by priests who carry a sacred responsibility for the care of soul. In all circumstances, the betrayal was a terrible violation of human dignity.

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 hears you and believes you. I deeply regret that some bishops that some bishops failed in their responsibility to protect children. It is very disturbing to know that in some cases bishops even were abusers. I pledge to you that we will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead. Clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they abuse or fail to protect children.

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We are gathered here in Philadelphia to celebrate God’s gift of family life. Within our family of faith and our human families, the sins and crimes of sexual abuse of children must no longer be held in secret and in shame. As we anticipate the Jubilee Year of Mercy, your presence, so generously given despite the anger and pain you have experienced, reveals the merciful heart of Christ. Your stories of survival, each unique and compelling, are powerful signs of hope that comes from the Lord’s promise to be with us always.

It is good to know that you have brought family members and friends with you today. I am grateful for their compassionate support and pray that many people of the church will respond to the call to accompany those who have suffered abuse. May the Door of Mercy be opened wide in our dioceses, our parishes, our homes and our hearts, to receive those who were abused and to seek the path to forgiveness by trusting in the Lord. We promise to support your continued healing and to always be vigilant to protect the children of today and tomorrow.

When the disciples who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus recognized that he was the Risen Lord, they asked Jesus to stay with them. Like those disciples, I humbly beg you and all survivors of abuse to stay with us, to stay with the church and that together as pilgrims on the journey of faith, we might find our way to the Father.

Following is the English translation of Pope Francis’ remarks to a gathering of bishops from around the world who are in Philadelphia for the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families. The pope spoke in Spanish. This translation comes from Natalia Imperatori-Lee, an associate professor of religious studies at Manhattan College. 

My brother bishops, Good morning.

I carry engraved in my heart the stories of suffering and pain of the minors who were sexually abused by priests. I remain overwhelmed by shame that those persons who were charged with the tender care of these little ones violated them and caused them great harm.

I lament it profoundly. God weeps. The crimes and sins of sexual abuse of minors cannot be kept secret any longer. I commit myself to the zealous watchfulness of the church to protect minors and I promise that all those responsible will be held accountable.

The survivors of abuse have become true heralds of hope and ministers of mercy. Humbly, we owe each of them and their families our gratitude for their immense courage in making Christ’s light to shine upon the evil of sexual abuse of children.

I say this because I have just met with a group of persons abused as children, who are helped and accompanied here in Philadelphia with a special care by Archbishop Chaput. It seemed necessary to communicate this to you.


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