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Pope Francis meets with Portuguese abuse victims

Pope Francis met with 13 victims of clerical sexual abuse in Portugal privately at the Apostolic Nunciature on Wednesday, August 2, during his Apostolic Visit to Portugal to celebrate World Youth Day 2023.

"In the evening of today, following institutional and Church meetings, Pope Francis received in the Nunciature a group of 13 people, victims of abuse by clergy members, who were accompanied by several representatives of Portuguese Church institutions in charge of minor protection," said Matteo Bruni, Holy See Press Office Director.

The Pope met them for more than an hour and ended at 8.15 p.m. local time.

During Vespers in Lisbon's Jeronimos Monastery, the Holy Father urged clergy and religious to combat clerical sexual abuse and listen to victims.

In an address to Portuguese Catholic institutions during his visit, Pope Francis criticized them for not responding to a decades-old sexual scandal that tarnished the institution's reputation and drove away followers.

In February, a damning report claimed that priests and other church personnel have abused at least 4,815 boys and girls since 1950.

Over a year ago, Portugal's bishops hired a panel of experts to prepare a report on alleged child abuse, while the Independent Committee for the Study of Child Abuse in the Catholic Church investigated alleged cases from 1950 to the present.

After the report was released, Portuguese church officials initially refused to remove named abusers from the ministry or compensate victims, claiming only a handful of cases had been reported.

According to Francis, clergy and nuns have become wary of their vocations since sexual abuse cases emerged, and the Catholic faithful have been separated from their faith because of these cases.

Pope Francis said to AP News Agency, "It is often accentuated by the disappointment and anger with which some people view the church, at times due to our poor witness and the scandals that have marred her face. It calls us to humble and ongoing purification, starting with the anguished cry of the victims, who must always be accepted and listened to."

Bishop Jose Ornelas, the head of the Portuguese bishops' Conference, said, "Our special attention is to the protection of children's welfare and the undertaking to protect them from abuses."

The Portuguese Catholic Church scrapped plans to unveil a memorial monument to the victims during World Youth Day a few weeks ago.

The next meeting Francis will have with abuse survivors will take place this week, just as he has done previously when traveling to other countries.


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