Pope Francis has begun his individual meetings with three victims of clerical sexual abuse from Chile, the Vatican said.
The pontiff’s priority for the talks at the Vatican is “to listen to the victims, to ask them for forgiveness, and to respect the confidentiality of these meetings,” a statement said.
The Vatican said Francis would allow all the time necessary to hear out Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and Jose Andres Murillo.
“The Pope thanked them for having accepted his invitation: during these days of personal and fraternal meeting, he wants to ask their forgiveness, share their pain and their shame for what they have suffered,” according to the Vatican statement.
Cruz, the most outspoken of the three victims, tweeted Thursday that he was already at the Vatican and hoped “good things for many people” would come out of the meetings.
Cruz told newsmen that he hoped the meeting might mark an end to a culture of abuse and its being covered up bishops and the church.
Earlier this month, Francis admitted to making “grave errors in the evaluation and perception” of the Chilean sex abuse scandal, “primarily out of a lack of truthful and balanced information”.
Visiting Chile in January, Francis defended local Bishop Juan Barros amid accusations that he had covered up sexual abuse by another priest, Fernando Karadima.
He dismissed victims’ allegations against Barros as “slander,” but that triggered an outcry and led the pope to apologize and commission an official investigation.