The meeting was held in private, but the Vatican press office announced that it lasted more than an hour and was characterized by "intense listening."
Pope Francis met with a group of 13 victims of clergy abuse, the director of the Vatican press office, Matteo Bruni, reported on August 2, 2023. Earlier in the afternoon, in a meeting with clergy, the Argentine Pope had publicly referred to “the scandals that have disfigured the face” of the Church. A report recently highlighted the scourge of abuse in the Church in Portugal.
The Pope’s meeting with abuse victims took place behind closed doors at the Nunciature in Lisbon, where Pope Francis is staying. It was held “in a climate of intense listening and lasted over an hour, ending shortly after 8:15 pm,” said Bruni. The 13 victims were accompanied by a number of representatives of institutions responsible for the protection of minors, he added.
The Church in Portugal was rocked by the publication last January of a report on violence committed by priests against young children between 1950 and 2022. The investigation recorded at least 4,815 victims.
The Pope’s meeting with the victims was expected, even though it was not on the official program for this papal trip to Lisbon for the World Youth Day.
In the afternoon, before the Portuguese clergy gathered at the Dos Jerónimos monastery, the 86-year-old Pontiff spoke of the scandal of abuses committed within the Catholic Church. These scandals, he declared, “call for a humble and constant purification, starting from the cry of pain of the victims, always to be welcomed and listened to.”
This is not the first time Pope Francis has met victims on a trip abroad.
In 2015, for example, he spent time with sexually abused people in Philadelphia, on the occasion of his trip to the United States. “I deeply regret that some bishops have not assumed their responsibility to protect minors,” he lamented. During a visit to Ireland in 2018, the Argentine Pope received 8 victims at length at the Nunciature in Dublin.
In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI also met victims of sexual violence perpetrated by churchmen on the sidelines of World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia.