Pope Francis has regular, confidential meetings with victims of sexual abuse, the Vatican revealed on Thursday, with his Church still struggling to deal with a global scandal involving paedophile priests.
“I can confirm that the Holy Father meets sex abuse victims several times a month, both individually and in groups,’’ Vatican spokesman Grek Burke said in a statement.
According to Burke, Pope Francis listens to the victims and tries to help them heal the serious wounds caused by the abuses they suffered.
He added: “The meetings take place in the utmost confidentiality to protect the victims’ privacy.’’
Burke spoke after Italy’s Corriere della Sera daily ran an extract of an article due to be published on Saturday by Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit magazine.
The magazine quoted the pope as saying: “On Fridays – sometimes this is public, sometimes not – I usually meet with some victims, their experience is terrible, they are left destroyed’’.
Francis made the remarks during a meeting with fellow Jesuits on his trip to Chile in January.
The Catholic Church has been dogged for decades by the worldwide scandal of paedophile priests, and Francis’ record on fighting this scourge has recently come under scrutiny.
During the Chile trip, the pope angered clergy sex abuse victims by insisting they had no “proof’’ against a bishop who allegedly witnessed abuse and failed to report it.
Francis’ defense of Bishop Juan Barros sparked an outcry, after which the Vatican’s top investigator on sexual abuse, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, was told to go to Chile to look into the case.
Scicluna is due to arrive in Chile on February 20.